It seems that nothing else in the Bay Area sports news cycle gets people quite as fired up as “radio wars”does. I am one of those people whose radio presets stay on the sports talk stations. KNBR has been a staple in my life for some time now. It makes sense – when sports consume your life, you enjoy discussing them. If you enjoy discussing sports, you enjoy listening to sports discussion. If that discussion is entertaining, that’s all the better. Maybe that’s why the news of Pablo Sandoval and sexual abuse was merely a tremor on the interweb while the news of Ralph Barbieri being fired nearly broke Twitter.
Back when KNBR was the only game in town (pun intended), it seemed above criticism. The year before Dan Dibley left for what would eventually become 95.7 the Game was a golden age in radio for me. I rarely missed a Radnich show. I would schedule my 10 minute breaks at work so that I could be back in time for the best half hour in radio with Tony Bruno. My fiancé nay-saying a plan became known as “Lee Hammer says no.” I uttered the word “yes” every time something suggestive was said.
Actually, I still do those last two.
Times have changed
I used to be a pretty unapologetic KNBR fanboy. I was crushed when Dibley left for The Game, a radio station that was new and different (therefore weird and icky, right?). Before Dan was a radio personality, he was a counselor at my summer camp growing up (sorry to bust you out, Dan). He was the reason I started listening to KNBR in the first place. My loyalties, it seemed, became torn. What ensued changed my perspective on sports talk radio in the Bay Area, whether I liked it or not.
Converting to The Game
(Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this piece belong to me, Ruthless Sports Guy, and do not reflect those of Bay Area Sports Guy. This is how I see Bay Area radio only, so if you don’t like my opinions, take it out on me, not him.)
If you guys are regular readers then you know the story. KNBR, in an attempt to keep up with the new guy in town, has let its fan base down. Almost every failed experiment, new gimmick or personality that they threw on the station has failed to resonant with me. This (along with a sudden inability to stream KNBR on my work computer) drove me to become a 95.7 The Game listener.
I should make this clear – I haven’t completely abandoned KNBR. I still listen to a great deal of it – as long as the Giants, Warriors* and 49ers games are still broadcasting on “The Sports Leader,” I’ll always have a reason to tune in. The content of their shows, however, simply wore off on me.
The Rise Guys
Although I can’t put a finger on why, The Rise Guys are just plain entertaining. They offer objective opinions, a wide breadth of topics and an engaging line-up of discussions starters. Every show has its gimmicks, and The Rise Guys may have a few too many of them, but the chemistry between Whitey Gleason, Mark Kreidler and Dibley seems genuine. They keep me from changing the station, and that’s what counts. Either that, or maybe I’m just tired of hear excuses being made for the Giants every day. Yeah, that might be it.
The Rise Guys/The Wheelhouse
Again, the FM side just entertains. John Lund seems to have a fresh, objective perspective on the sporting world, and I really enjoy Mychael Urban. The Wheelhouse goes light on listener opinion (I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard a caller get on the Wheelhouse air), whereas other shows carry themselves on caller interactions for what seems like hours sometimes. Part of the reason that sports talk radio stays entertaining is because there is something new to discuss every day. The Game, unlike their couterparts, seem to keep the topics fresh.
The Drive with Tierney and Davis
This is the slot of sports talk that I like to call “commercial switching.” You probably know what I’m talking about – you’re listening to KNBR until Tolbert throws it to commercial, so you switch it over to 95.7, hoping they’re not on a commercial break as well. They are, so you instinctively go to 1050, only to realize that for some reason KNBR broadcasts Tolbert there too. Then he finally returns from break, only to talk for 30 seconds and throw it back to commercial again.
That’s how I treat drive-time sports talk. I can take and leave both shows, especially now that Ralph Barbieri is gone. I like Eric Davis and I like Tom Tolbert. This is a wash. Sometimes this turns into “listen to one of those same 3 CDs in your car” time slot.
Nights and weekends in sports radio
Weekday nights, especially those that aren’t occupied by a Giants game, are times that I turn to music or sometimes even go to whatever nationally syndicated show is playing on 1050.
Weekends all come down to Mychael. Urban’s show, “Inside the Bigs,” is just so engaging. I don’t mind that he talks both Giants and A’s. In fact, I’ve taken to liking the A’s more because of the coverage they get on The Game. There’s a formula to his show, and I like that. Sometimes sports shows can feel like their leisurely wading down the Russian River, meandering without a real point or purpose. Urban’s show feels prepped, intelligent and pointed. He might be the gem of 95.7 The Game.
Look, 95.7 is not perfect, but this is my opinion. In fact, I’m an unapologetic Damon Bruce fan – he’s my favorite radio host in the Bay Area. Bruce’s job is difficult – he carries a 3 hour show in the middle of the weekdays on the redheaded step child station 1050 without a co-host. Still, Damon never lacks in callers. He lands great guests. His opinions stay sharp and witty. He’s good at what he does.
I am entertained and inspired quite frequently when I listen to Damon. Many of my writings have been inspired by Damon’s discussions. It’s not that the Wheelhouse turns me off during its last two hours – it’s just that noon is time to change to Damon, simple as that.
That aside, I was surprised when I realized how much more my dial finds 95.7 The Game now. When the station first started, I chuckled and said to myself that it would never last. I swore by KNBR, and now it clings on to my humble listenership by virtue of Damon Bruce alone. Whether Bay Area Stat Guy’s “ratings wars” are an accurate depiction of each stations following or not are of no consequence to me. I have converted, for the most part, to the FM dial.