Young: “Bro…”

Tolbert: “What??”

Young: “C’mon, bro…”

Tolbert: “What’s the big deal?!”

Young: “BRO…..  Bro.”

Tolbert: “Sorry, bro.”

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point along the way, The Steve Young Show on KNBR evolved from that weekly interview you were kind of bummed to miss into that You’re-Still-Sitting-In-Your-Driveway-15-Minutes-Later-Listening-On-The-Car-Radio-Because-You-Don’t-Want-To-Miss-This brand of appointment radio Bay Area football fans have become accustomed to. For several years now, during the football season, you could count on tuning in to KNBR every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. (okay maybe a few minutes after 5:00) for your weekly fix of Steve Young. But now, it seems, our appointment with the Bro-slingin’ lefty may have been canceled.

SYBro….   BRO.

Back in August, I noticed that with just a couple weeks to go until the start of the NFL regular season, many of the familiar weekly interview “shows” on KNBR were already starting back up. I also noticed a whole lot of Brent Jones on the Mr. T Show and not a lot of Steve Young. In fact, no Steve Young at all.

Meanwhile, Murph & Mac backslapped Alex Boone (replacing long time M&M FOP, Brian Jennings) and verbally sparred with Jim Harbaugh and his coordinators, Vic Fangio and Greg Roman. Gary & Larry made us uncomfortable with Greg Cosell and schmoozed with Mike Pereira. Fitz & Brooks interviewed co-host Kevin Lynch several times a day. Tolbert made due with his other weekly guests, including Carlos Rodgers and Jeff Garcia (replacing Dwight Clark?). Damon Bruce and Patrick “P-Con” Connor focused heavily on college football, while Ray Woodson started handing over the reigns to Ted Robinson an hour a week for the 49ers Insider Show. Heck, even Matt Barrows seemed to get passed around from show to show, like a Dogg Pound groupie. But something was missing.

There was no discussion of the Art of Quarterbacking. Nobody waxing poetic about the Read Option. No deep meditations on how to scheme against the Tampa 2. Not a single “BRO” was uttered over the KNBR airwaves.

Where was Steve? Was he busy doing incredibly awesome things like this? Was he in the studio, working on his new album?  Was he thinking about making a comeback? Because, to be honest, I would probably feel better with Kaepernick/Young right now than I would with Kaepernick/McCoy.

I wanted answers, so I asked Tom Tolbert (on Twitter of course).

Sounds good, Tom. See you next week, Steve! Can’t wait!

Then we waited. The preseason ended. Week One arrived.

Bro…

We wondered if he was still alive. We sat through the ESPN Monday Night Football Opening Night Brostravaganza and there he was. HE WAS ALIVE! Speculation ran wild as to why Steve hadn’t signed up for another season on KNBR. Was he holding out for more money?? It seems absurd, but… (Wait. Yes, that’s absurd. Dude probably has like a Bro-jillion dollars in the bank.) Was Steve locked in a power struggle with KNBR Program Director, Lee Hammer?? Did the confluence of Bros Tolbert, Byrnes, and Young scare someone at Cumulus?? After all, that is a lot of BRO in one segment.

Nah. Turns out it was something much simpler than that.

Bro…?

Say it ain’t so, bro.

And there you have it. ESPN, everyone. The Worldwide Leader in hoarding radio guests. In case you were wondering, Young is still doing radio appearances. Just in the last week, Young has appeared on ESPN New York, ESPN Chicago, and on Colin Cowherd’s nationally syndicated show, The Herd, on ESPN. Are you detecting a pattern? C’mon, bro. Of course you are.

None of these are good indications that Steve will be back this season, and yet something is still telling me there’s a chance.  So, while the evil overlords back in Bristol may have Steve handcuffed to Stuart Scott for the moment, here are some reasons to be hopeful KNBR and ESPN will pull it together and come to an agreement.

  • Tom Tolbert and KNBR know how popular Steve Young’s weekly spot has become. The ratings boost on Wednesdays is probably huge and that means more ad revenue. They won’t let him go without a fight. Somewhere Lee Hammer is shirtless, chiseled, and greased up like a Greek king defending the mountain pass of Thermopylae preparing for battle with ESPN.
  • ESPN and KNBR are working on it. Just the fact that there is ongoing discussion/negotiation/whatever taking place is a good sign. It means that ESPN is considering a deal. And why wouldn’t they? KNBR is the lead dog in a huge market. 95.7 The Game is going nowhere. Why not have one of the faces of your NFL programming appear on the flagship station of the prohibitive Super Bowl favorite?
  • Steve Young has more power at ESPN than your average NFL analyst. This is an assumption on my part, but I’d be willing to bet if push comes to shove, Steve Young will get what he wants. He doesn’t have the leverage of a Jon Gruden, but I’m pretty sure ESPN would rather let a little weekly radio show slide than piss off one of their best analysts, who just happens to appear on the network’s crown jewel of programming (MNF).
  • Steve Young does what he wants. Put it this way, the dude has “other interests” outside of football, which may include serving as managing partner and Co-founder of a private equity firm with $1.1 billion in committed capital. Young is doing this football analysis thing because he loves it, not because he needs it. And when (not if) he decides someday that he no longer wants to deal with cross-country flights to Bristol, he’s probably going to value that connection he has with The Sports Leader.
  • What’s the big deal anyway? Steve Young has been appearing on KNBR for like 50 years, at least. Can’t they just Grandfather him in or something? I mean, get over yourselves, corporate big wigs! WE HAD HIM FIRST! THE PEOPLE DEMAND YOU FREE THE BRO.
  • Bro…  BRO.  Bro………   Bro.

Exactly.