Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Denver Sports Radio Landscape Changes -2015 to 2016 Edition

The turning of the Calendar to 2016 brings a change in the Denver Sports Radio Landscape as we know it.  First and foremost, January 4th will bring only a single FM radio station on the airwaves in the long running 104.3 FM The Fan (formerly 950 AM) standing atop the mountain.  Denver had 3 FM Radio stations before Mile High Sports sold 94.1 FM mid 2015 and Denver's 105.5 FM ESPN being officially turned over into the hands of Fan's sister station 1600 AM on that January 4th morning.  The change will grow as 2016 goes on.  Here are the things you may see in 2016 Denver Sports Radio.

104.3 FM The Fan
The Fan remains much the same, but adding ESPN back to the family, they will go away from the 10 am  to Noon Dan Patrick tape delay and have a local line-up that remains filled with familiar names and voices while making a couple additions that will strengthen the station.

Yes, Scott Hastings and Vic Lombardi have been removed from The Fan line-up, but the addition of Mark Schlereth in the mornings (ESPN related and very smart since he had a great national show on ESPN and was great here locally prior to that).  Then moving Shaun Drotar and Ryan Edwards into the 10 AM to Noon shift and placing the talented Joshua Dover into the Fan Late Night with James Gomez, The Fan's new Sports Director, Armen Williams, has improved their line-up.

The estimated line-up would be:
6-9 AM: Mike Evans, Joel Dreesen and Mark Schlereth.  I am on record as believing Dreesen will be gone by 2nd quarter since three is just too much in a radio booth and takes away from good sports talk.  Schlereth is consummate professional and will bring a much bigger name nationally than the very beloved Vic Lombardi.  He doesn't use the Dreesen made up words.  Evans is Mike Miller of sports talk, he will be there forever and help the true stars shine.
9-10 AM: Fan Football Hour w/ Evans and a daily guest-This is great for Denver to have during season and a welcome addition over the national B.S.  r is a football town so it will probably still do fairly well in the off-season since football may only be a 4-5 month thing, but is truly year round with free agency, the draft and camps.
10 AM-Noon: Ryan Edwards and Shaun Drotar-A much overdue call-up to the big leagues.  This will fill a hole Denver has had with only Mile High Sports being on locally.  Though I truly enjoy Mile High Sports, I like options if the content matter is not cutting it that day.
Noon-3 PM: Sandy Clough-Sandy is good.  He's knowledgeable and he's not the ass that he was a decade ago.  Sandy is great on his own, but I still think he fits well with a solid wingman like Mike Evans to fill his dead air gaps when he's pondering his next take.  I would like to see this happen but we will see.  Sandy can handle it either way.
3 PM-6 PM:D-Mac and Big Al-The numbers must be good still, but I don't get it.  There are not a lot of facts brought into this show. The callers that get in and these two make me think of the guy living off his glory days from 15 years before and his friends that never played sports and they bring nothing to the table.
6-9 PM: I am hoping for a replay of something on ESPN or ESPN Radio or Nate Kreckman or anything but another 3 hours of that shitty show.
9-Midnight: Josh Dover and James Gomez-These two are producer legends that are also great on-air personalities.  A show they can team up on and call their own is long overdue.

1340 AM Mile High Sports
What a 2015 for Mile High Sports.  They were off air for over two months.  They lost their FM dial and went to an AM dial that is stronger than the AM/FM dials they held previously but they still lose clear signals up north and especially in the non daylight hours.  Knowing the station, they are still trying to clear up paperwork on getting an FM signal so they can be on both outlets.  It is a wise move.  Just last week Mile High Sports and BSN Denver broke off from one another.  In that they lost the BSN Sports Desk.  It will be interesting to see how 2016 looks for BSN and Mile High Sports but Mile High Sports already filled that hole in the line-up.  That line-up is:
7-9 AM: Morning Mayhem with Danny Williams and Cello Romano-A guilty pleasure and entertaining show.  Unfortunately some days we get mundane arguments about John Mayer or Dave Matthews.  The show is caller centric and entertaining.  I will stay tuned in.
9-11 AM: Sports Guy Mike-It is 3 days in, so we will wait to hold judgment.  I will say he is well dressed and media savvy and talks sports the entire show.  Hoping this show proves to be solid.
11 AM-1 PM: Gil Whiteley-Gil's voice is unforgivable as much as it is unforgettable.  Take it in 15 minute doses per hour at most, but make sure you give him some time.
1-2 PM: Irv and Joe Show-Irv Brown and Joe Williams.  Legends!
2-4 PM: The Big Show-Benny Bash, Benjamin Allbright and Kent Erickson.  Three is a crowd but these three play it smart.  They don't step on each others toes.  Allbright may be too football intelligent for some listeners with him talking schemes, formations, etc. but it fits my mold.  Benny is doing things the right way.  Kent's still just toast but it's always nice for two younger guys to let their Uncle talk sports with them.
4-6 PM: Afternoon Drive with Les Shapiro and Eric Goodman-Eric finally has someone to argue with and not back down.  These two were a couple that were afraid to come out and work together but they have been very good together.
6-8 PM: Renaud Notaro and Big Dee White-Renaud has been great for years.  Big Dee White was a producer that showed he deserved to be on the mic full time.  It has worked out well.  It's a great pairing.  Unfortunately, the station becomes pure static about an hour in. 
After 8 I am still in the dark with no radio during darkness

1600 AM ESPN
My guess is full ESPN format.  Great signal.  Will help all the non-Broncos fans hear something they are more interested in.  Will  be good to  have another option during the Rockies season when there is nothing to hear.

760 AM-Real Talk
760 has gone from Liberal talk to Sports talk full time.  It took all the Fox Sports shows (and paycheck for airing it) and added a couple of sports centered shows. 
10 AM to Noon-Dave Logan and Susie Wargin-Neither have been my cup of tea but people loved their work together in the past.  They got the band back together!!!!
3-6 PM-Andy Lindahl-Lindahl does great with his work talking Broncos pre and post game and everything in between.  Plus his first name is the best you can have.  I will probably give him a listen and decide where my radio ears will go each night.
National syndication shows include: The Ben Maller Show, Dan Patrick, Colin Cowherd and Jay Mohr along with a couple I never have heard of.  Maller is one of the best that not enough people know about.  Jay Mohr turned his Bob Sugar role and fill-in spots for Jim Rome into a full-time gig. 

950 AM-Kroenke Sports Entertainment
No word yet, but expect a new big dog to come into town with KSE's acquisition of the original Fan station 950 AM.  Vic Lombardi and Scott Hastings are obvious choices for hosts.  We will see how everything else goes, but by owning 950 and 3 FM radio stations, KSE can start airing their content of Nuggets, Avalanche and Rapids teams without having to pay someone else for it once current contracts expire or get bought out.

BSN Denver
BSN Denver does not appear to have a voice on the Denver airwaves, but Brandon Spano has built an interesting concept of full Denver Sports writing, blogging and podcasting.  So it is worth giving some note here.  Spano is ballsy having added a large contingent of writers and mouths to feed to make his website respectable.  It is an interesting model and I look forward to seeing how it works out with the only voice being via social media.  But social media has proven to be growing while talk radio has proven to be dying.  BSN Denver must compete against millions of other bloggers, "writers" and podcasters that have a voice themselves in Denver, so how they make money and continue to build their unique brand will be very interesting for 2016.

2016 Outlook

Denver could have 5 full time sports stations with at least 3 of them full-time Denver centric (The Fan, Mile High Sports and KSE) and another 5 hours local of 760.  Denver Sports Radio looked like it was going to thin out with 104.3 The Fan changing Sports Directors after new ownership and when 105.5 FM ESPN officially announced they had fully sold (out) but instead it made local sports content increase immediately.

So what else is on the horizon?   I am not sure, but I know 105.5 FM left a great group of free agents from Nate Kreckman, Cecil Lammey to Drew Spevak, Rob Wagner and Raj Sharan.  I think Cecil Lammey would make a great 6-9 PM show in lieu of the replay of what may be The Fan's worse show!  Nate Kreckman has worked his way up in Denver and I hope Kroenke or the Fan sign him or a large sponsorship contingent brings him back to where the magic truly started for Nate at Mile High Sports.

2016 is shaping up to be a crowded race for listeners and sports information in the Denver market.  Based off all the change we have seen in the last three years, my guess is , whatever 2016 sports radio looks like in Denver January 4th will be much different come July 4th with Broncos training camp on the horizon.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Top 5 Denver Sports Talk Shows of All-Time

After thinking back to my drive from Thornton/Brighton to Colorado School of Mines every day back in 1999, I look back at what sports talk shows had the most impact on my love for sports talk, so without further ado, here are the Top 5 Denver sports talk shows of all-time.

5) Mike and Sandy (Mike Evans and Sandy Clough): This show was on mainly during my late college to early career years.  It was 950 AM The Fan's morning show.  DOG Nation (Defenders of Griese) were often ridiculed by these two.   Evans was the yin to Clough's yang.  Evans kept Clough from going off on anyone that called in but also provided a lot of good back and forth and helped Clough shine.  Clough is a very knowledgeable sports guy but alone he tends to rip apart callers rather than make them learn more.  This show brought the now two longest tenured sports guys on 104.3 FM The Fan together.  They moved to the afternoons for a short stint that was so forgettable that I had almost spaced the fact they had moved to afternoon drives when 104.3 The Fan sold out to ESPN.  It would be wise to do so again late mornings and get rid of the national tape delayed show!

4) Klatt and Kreckman Show (Joel Klatt and Nate Kreckman): Yes, THAT Joel Klatt cut his chops on one of the greatest shows Denver Sports has heard with two young up and comers in the sports business.  Klatt moved up quickly taking a gig with Mike Evans giving him full lip service (pun intended) in the mornings on 104.3 The Fan for a short while before Joel got the call up to take a gig on Fox Sports 1.  Klatt has ascended the chain quickly becoming Fox's College top color guy and was also the highlight guy for the Fox's NFL coverage last year.  Kreckman has become the focal point of ESPN Radio.  The Working Man as his solo show after Klatt split off showed Kreckman can make it on his own or with a Locker Room filled with Gary Miller and Tom Nalen.  (Little known fact, Nate Kreckman was the producer and update guy for The Press Box I mention later)  Back to these two together; Kreckman and Klatt are both a little cocky, both a little arrogant and I hated Klatt with anyone but Kreckman because only Nate could put Joel in his place and Joel made Nate truly shine.  This show never went through the motions, it brought good sports talk and entertainment that has been tough to match.

3) Vic and Gary (Vic Lombardi and Gary Miller): The TV duo may be the biggest man-man love that we have seen from two sports guys in Denver.  Their show had a mass following and operated in Vic's basement.  The two were ahead of their times with a live stream and a chat for their listeners.  The great sports talk on the show coupled with the chat during the show were fantastic radio.  The two's work marriage brought comedy and their good rapport with local athletes allowed for great insight into the happenings of the sports scene.  It was just radio pleasure from day one.  The fact no one has figured a way to bring these two back together shows that sometimes these program directors over think themselves.

2) The Press Box (Tim Neverett & Jim Armstrong): Early 2000s gem on 560KLZ and then Neverett on Mile High Sports around 2007.  Armstrong was amongst my favorite writers at The Denver Post.  He was never the ass hole just to get reads (now clicks) like his peers Woody Paige and Mark Kiszla.  Instead he gave his opinion and kept it fair.   His column on Page 2 of the sports page was my must read every morning from high school through his time ending at the Post after a betting scandal took away Denver's best sports op writer.  I loved how he could talk about so many things in so few word and give enough info to want to know more.

Tim Neverett was an all-star for Denver.  He brought a great opinion and knowledge that rivaled any in Denver.  His voice is smooth as silk and delivers a perfect "pitch" now for the Pittsburgh Pirates after his departure in late 2008.  The two worked well together with their large amount of sports IQ and ability to talk about anything.  Unlike their competition, they made callers feel welcome and helped transition sports radio to a more caller friendly situation.  Unlike 104.3 The Fan and 105.5 ESPN that relies on texts for interaction and actually takes away from their shows doing so, Mile High Sports used Neverett's format to build Press Box with different cast and characters and build a caller friendly station that has had many long time The Fan listeners switch over from their old, boring same format of 20 years.  These two didn't have a mass following but anyone that had the pleasure of hearing it, heard my true favorite show of all-time. 

1) The Irv and Joe Show (Irv Brown and Joe Williams): Due to their legacy and what they have done in the Sports talk game for longer than I have been listening and probably been alive, they get the nod of the greatest of all-time in Denver.  These two bring humor, clich├ęs (Red Dog "Down Goes Frazier), two old friends bickering (Irv threatening: I'll Walk off This Show!) and a signature ending ("Come Home Baby Now").  It has stood the test of time and these old farts are still bringing entertainment an hour a day to 1340 AM Mile High Sports listeners.  It is a guilty pleasure for me.  These two are about half a decade past their shelf life,  but I remember coming back from Golden and getting hours of entertainment.  Joe's long time pot shots at John Elway, the Avs being destined to being beat in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals and just great local and national talk is what has made this show great.  These two talk college football as often as NFL and give all sports a fair shake rather than holding on to the Denver Broncos jock talk that has lazily failed Denver Sports the past.  I started with these two in 1999 when they were on 950 AM The Fan, went over to 1600 AM when 104.3 FM The Fan let them go with their switch to ESPN Radio.  The two moved to Mile High Sports and have been hanging out around the lunch hour for ages.  A lot of young guns credit their listening to these two being a deciding factor on trying to cut their chops on the radio.  Two oldies still make a goodie once in awhile!

Monday, December 7, 2015

105.5 ESPN Denver Departure Thins Sports Radio Landscape

Announced today 105.5 FM ESPN will close shop on January 3rd, 2016.  Denver's radio was crowded in the afternoon but it allowed the sports radio listener to make a choice between the 3 programs that were on.   Lou from Littleton and his partners had continually thinned the herd going from 87.7 The Ticket and all live and local shows to selling out to corporate ESPN and only having two true full-time one-man band shows over the past year or so.  This day was coming and rumors had been running rampant from behind the scenes that Lou and company would throw in the towel at year end.  It came true.  While it is not good news to lose the ability to choose my show, the crowded landscape thinning out may actually help Denver radio IF the local stations bring some of that talent over.

Nate Kreckman has been one of the most entertaining and well informed guys in Denver sports.  His show with Joel Klatt ranks amongst the greatest in Denver Sports Radio history and he has shown his abilities to work solo as The Working Man to doubling up to having a crowded "Locker Room" when he was on with Tom Nalen and Gary Miller.  Nate Kreckman is radio gold and would be just another big loss in Denver Sports Media if someone local doesn't step up to the plate and bring him on and let's him move on elsewhere!

Cecil Lammey is a niche that works PERFECT for Denver radio and today's sports landscape where people are more concerned about their fantasy line-up and the NFL draft than they are about being a fan of their NFL team.  When he was given a full-time daily show, it was good news for the football hungry Denver Sports market.  He had been used and tossed to the side as just a filler weekend guy until ESPN thinned out and got rid of a large portion of payroll in Les Shapiro, Charles Johnson and then the Locker Room shake-up.  Cecil has a great bank of NFL draft and fantasy football knowledge he can share and give his educated opinion on.  He should not be lost locally but a national fantasy football show would be wise to use his work ethic and knowledge.

As for the others, Drew Spevak AND Rob Wagner have been young up and comers that have taken full advantage of their increased air time.  Wagner and Spevak remind me of the talent 104.3 The Fan wastes in their Fan Late Night group.  That group is probably their most talented show and is on during a time the married family man has a difficult time being able to catch most of their show.  Spevak would make for a great replacement while those guys move up to the big leagues.  Raj Sharan is a great producer and glue that has held that ship that has been breaking apart for years and would improve either remaining Denver Sports station.

So what is next we ask with only 1340AM Mile High Sports and 104.3 The Fan left and how should they react.  Here are my thoughts:

1340 AM has to get an FM signal somehow, some way.  I can't listen to 1340 once the sun goes down and some great late shows like Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro are scratchy for half their show, Big Dee White and Renaud Notaro don't even get a chance and anything later, I can't even tell you whether it is worth a listen since my late night drives are spent listening to a station that works in 104.3 The Fan.  They have a decent line-up that differs from The Fan enough that unless they offer something to Nate or Cecil, I don't see them changing much since they are the CSU of coaching.  A stepping stone for bigger things or a place for a guy to retire.  After that, here is where those ESPN talents should land:

104.3 The Fan:
6-9 AM: Nate Kreckman w/ Vic Lombardi-Joel Dreesen has brought nothing.  Nate can ramble off for an hour and then bring on Vic.  Nate over Mike Evans is like going from Tebow to Peyton Manning instantly.  13 Ws and home field advantage compared to pray you get  something good once in awhile.
9 AM to 11 AM: Cecil Lammey -9 AM to 12 PM.  He could pick up The Fan Football Hour rather than know little Mike Evans. Let Raj work with him and help however need be.

11 AM to 1 PM: Sandy Clough and Mike Evans.  They were really good together and belong together.  Quit trying to keep this love away.

Move Big Al and D-Mac to 1-4 PM.

4-7 PM Move James Gomez, Ryan Edwards and Shawn Drotar to where they belong providing an entertaining and quality show.

7-10 PM: Drew Spevak and Rob Wagner or whatever contractual NBA or NHL or Monday night game.  Let Drew work 9-Midnight on those nights it doesn't happen. 

Denver Sports Radio can truly be live and local and not  have tape delay and shitty replays if 104.3 The Fan is smart and Mile High Sports takes advantage of losing a competitor on the FM dial