After a long period of relative stability, 95.7 The Game program director Don Kollins has overseen several changes at the Entercom sports talk station in a matter of weeks. Not long after wooing the Warriors to 95.7, Kollins told John Middlekauff and Chad Doing their services were no longer needed.
Joe Fortenbaugh and Lorenzo Neal hosted Tuesday’s morning show, followed by Zakariah and The Guru from 10-to-noon. The station’s website was changed Tuesday morning, with bios for only Fortenbaugh and Neal listed on the morning show’s page and no mention at all of “Haberman & Middlekauff” (otherwise known as “Haberkauff”).
I was asked about possible changes via Twitter yesterday morning on my way to the airport, confirmed the changes while going through security, and Jason Barrett (who probably has a source or two at his old station) reported the changes just before noon. And now I’m writing about the changes while on United’s flaccid WiFi network, so this story may never get published.
***Update: this story was finally published on Wednesday, after a ridiculously long travel day that saw our infant carseat end up in L.A. We never went to L.A.
Since the news broke long ago, I might as well throw out some hypotheses on why Doing and Middlekauff are no longer with the station.
1. It’s been rumored for a while that John Tournour (J.T. The Brick) will eventually host a show on 95.7, possibly in the mid-morning slot once held by Haberkauff.
This makes a lot of sense if you look at where 95.7 is trending. Tournour is already a regular guest on the station, and with the Raiders looking like a potential AFC West contender, getting a well-known host who does podcasts for Raiders.com seems like a natural fit. He also fits the station’s M.O. If we’re comparing 95.7 to KNBR, there’s no denying that 95.7’s hosts are louder than KNBR’s, and not just because FM and AM don’t sound the same. Just look at the lineups (full-time hosts only):
95.7: Joe Fortenbaugh, Lorenzo Neal, J.T. The Brick(???), Greg Papa, Damon Bruce, Chris Townsend (we can probably throw Zak and Guru in here as well, as they’re on fairly often)
KNBR 680: Brian Murphy, Paul McCaffrey, Larry Krueger, Gary Radnich, Bob Fitzgerald, Rod Brooks, Tom Tolbert, John Lund, Ray Woodson
95.7 tried to lure Krueger over from KNBR two years ago. Other than his love for the Giants and 49ers turning off fans who wish their favorite station focused on the Oakland teams 99% of the time, he’d fit in on KGMZ as well. However, it’s tough to deny there’s an overall difference in tone and volume between the two stations.
2. Doing was a versatile radio host who got a raw deal.
Doing moved here from Portland and lost his full-time gig less than two years later, once again illuminating the harshness of this business. He didn’t make waves in the Bay Area, either on the air or on social media, and was part of a three-man show that might not lose anything in the ratings by shedding one person.
Not to say these hosts can’t talk about all sports, but Fortenbaugh is a football/gambling guy (he spent over six years with National Football Post), Neal is a football guy (239 NFL games, two-time All-Pro), and Doing is more of a General Studies kind of sports talk show host … at least from what I could tell. However, this could’ve been a situation where they figured they could get the same output from two hosts instead of three, or they’re looking at reshuffling the remaining hosts and Doing was one of the two odd men out.
3. Middlekauff is another football guy (former scout for the Eagles), so the timing here is interesting.
Since he was let go and not Haberman, Kollins’ decision could’ve been a matter of taste. Then again, with 95.7 adding their third professional sports team and possibly bringing The Brick on board, both terminations could’ve been driven by ratings and/or finances. That’s usually the case when radio stations let hosts go, anyway. However, if Middlekauff — who joined 95.7 originally as a part-time football contributor — vanishes completely, with no more appearances as a guest or postgame Raiders analyst, we may have our answer here.
4. There could be a few more changes in store for The Game, beyond adding a midday Brick.
If Haberman stays on in a full-time role and the 10-to-noon spot goes to Tournour, Haberman could a morning or evening show candidate, although his work for Comcast doing pre/post for Kings games would conflict with a show that starts at 7 pm. Greg Papa has a rotating group of cohosts — Dan Dibley seems to appear most frequently, followed by Chris Townsend, John Dickinson and Roxy Bernstein in some order. They may want to lock down a permanent partner for Papa. Could Haberman be that guy, or are the other four I mentioned auditioning for that spot?
Also, and this is just for giggles … wouldn’t it be something if they hired Ray Ratto? They wouldn’t pit him against Tolbert for obvious reasons. (Could you imagine “Bruce & Ratto”? No, no you can’t.). But with the way the region’s sports talk stations like to poach each other’s talent, it would certainly make the RADIO WARZ a little more interesting.