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Wednesday, July 19, 2006
New kid on the block...
Back when I was in college and president of the UTK chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, we organized a panel on reporting scandals in sports. OK, so it's not entirely original or ground-breaking, but we sure as heck thought it was.

For our panel, we invited several local sports media figures to be part of the panel of distinguished experts. We had Bob Kessling before he was the Voice of the Vols (though after his big giant floating head had been permanently scarred onto my psyche...see, in Knoxville late at night they had on this commerical for Bob's sport cast with his head floating on the technicolor corridor effect from Vertigo...needless to say, I'm still scarred from it over a decade later), a couple of the local radio guys (I want to say Mike Keith came in his days before the Voice of the Titans) and we invited some sports journalists from the News-Sentinnel.

We had our panel pretty much set and ready to go when the advisor called me and said we'd have to make an addition to our panel. Seems that the local ABC affililiate had found out about our panel, that Kessling was coming and wanted to send their lead guy as well. The ABC affiliates's attitude was--we're in second place in the market and we're going to do whatever it takes to get to first place.

So, we had an addition to our panel and looking back it was a great one. Jim Wogan was personable, interesting and thoroughly accessible. He ended up being the most memorable panelist of a panel full of the "Who's Who?" of broadcasting in the Volunteer State.

I always find it interesting in the media when there's a seemingly invincible juggernaut and the new, "upstart" isn't afraid to take it on. One of the biggest examples was back in the day when FOX moved The Simpsons off Sunday night to take on the ratings juggernaut that was The Cosby Show. Or next year with the battle of Grey's Anatomy and CSI.

Or even when it extends to other media outlets--like radio.

Back in Knoxville, we had the big sports call in show of SportsTalk on 99.7. This was the show that launched the career of Mike Keith and is tied into the UT broadcast network. So, it's pretty much the big dog in town. Then there was Tony Basillio's show that was the vagabond show of sports radio. Tony moved stations more often than most of us change socks. He had a loyal band of callers who'd follow his show wherever it went, so they could all wonder "When are we going to beat Florida?" or "Why didn't we win by seven touchdowns?" (I have since found out some of Tony's fans will call into shows all across the state....I've heard them locally. It was a real Twilight Zone moment to hear some of those voices on my radio when I first got to Nashville).

And here in Nashville, we have a similiar battle. I don't think anyone can aruge that Sports Night on 104.5 the Zone isn't the king of the afternoon sports call-in show. It's got the ratings to prove it. But that hasn't stopped other stations from coming in and trying to get a piece of the pie.

The latest experiment in this kicked off this week when 106.7 The Fan launched The Sports Guy, a new drive-time show hosted by Bob Bell and Boots Donnelly.

I've listened to the first two days sporadically and while I don't think George Plaster is going to lose any sleep over worrying that these guys might overtake his ratings next week, it's a solid enough show. And let's face it--the real battle will begin in a next week when God's sport begins with SEC media days, Titans training camp and the countdown to real football. (Not that stupid European crap they try to pass off as exciting and worth our interest...I'm so gonna get hate comments for that...)

The new show is still finding an identity and its niche, but then again it's only been two days. And it's already a damn sight better than the other show that was on and cancelled. I will listen to Bob Bell talk about 1AA football anyday over hearing Blake Fulton hijack the sports shows to find out what kind of dog he should buy to impress women. (My big complaint with Fulton was too often the show became about his own ego-gratification and not about sports...)

And in all of that, I still haven't given any love to Bill King's show on the AM dial, which may be the most honest assessment of the sports team in our community. King pulls no punches in his praise and/or criticism of the Vols, the Commodores or the Titans. He calls it like he sees it and while I may not always agree, I don't feel as if he's running down one team to make another favorite look better. Or that he suffers from what a lot of Vandy fans it this town do--the inferiority complex to the big school to the East....(Oh, the hate e-mail I'm going to get on this post....I insult soccer and Vandy...it's a banner day).

All I know is that it's giving Nashville sports fans some variety. And I like it. It means that if they're talking about something that doesn't fire up my interest on one show, I can flip over and see what the other guys are discussing. I'm sure that is exactly what station managers at each of these respective stations don't want to hear....but to them I say--my loyalty is easily bought. (Think free t-shirts...)

posted by Michael Hickerson at 7/19/2006 10:05:00 AM | |
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