Sunday, September 4, 2011

Radio Somewhere: WHY Cleveland needs more sports talk

Roughly 1 week ago, a rather heart felt editorial asking if Cleveland needed more sports talk radio was posted by CST contributor and resident optimist Doug. This in response to FM 92.3's announcement that it was changing its format to a 24 hour sports station. As a sports talk connoisseur... or junkie... or loser if you prefer (sadly I basically listen to it from 7:00 a.m.  - 6:00 p.m. every week day and any time I'm in the car)... I figured I'd give this new dynamic of having multiple sports talk stations a chance to marinate. And this weekend I got my first taste of exactly why Cleveland needs more sports talk: Options and Competition

It all started Friday night, when I turned on WKNR, forgetting that another year of what I consider to be a total waste of air space (just my opinion), "High School Hysteria", had begun. But unlike last year, when I'd be forced to listen to a couple of local newbies/wannabies (you know who you are) scream into the microphone, I mean call play-by-play, for a high school football game that I couldn't care less about, or switch to music that I don't really like, I had the option to tune to FM 92.3 The Fan. I don't remember what the discussion was (probably Browns) but I do know it was more interesting than high school football. (And I'm not knocking high school football... but beside maybe the schools' students and parents of the players of those two high school teams, who's listening to a full high school football game on the radio?)

Saturday afforded me a similar situation. While getting tired of listening to the OSU beat down of Akron as I ran errands, I flipped over to The Fan and was pleasantly surprised to hear The BSK, Kendall Lewis, back on the air having an interesting conversation about The Browns roster moves and upcoming season (as well as the Buckeyes).

If I don't want to hear Chris Fedor's long-winded fantasy football diatribes or his annoying analysis about how the Miami Heat of the "National Basketball Association" is the best team in the league even though they didn't win the championship, I can still enjoy sports talk on another station. If I don't want to listen to The Monsters game, or Reghi taking himself too seriously while interviewing the head coach of Baldwin Wallace, I have options. For someone who listens to sports talk radio at an unhealthy rate, Friday and Saturday were tantalizing samplers of what could be.

Providing options to a sports talk junkie isn't the only reason Cleveland can use another radio station dedicated to sports. Back in the mid to late 1990s, there was a phenomenon in the professional wrestling world known as "The Monday Night Wars". Every Monday night WCW and WWE went head-to-head with live, unpredictable, ratings-grabbing super shows. WWE eventually won the war and bought (swallowed) WCW. WWE became the lone wolf - a monopoly - and without the threat of competition, some would argue (myself included) that the quality of the product has suffered greatly. For every WWE there needs to be a WCW. For every McDonald's there is a Burger King. For every Microsoft, there is an Apple. And for Cleveland sports fans, it may be beneficial for WKNR to have 92.3 The Fan.

Whether you believe the talent on the radio is any good or the programming is a train wreck in progress, the fact that the stations now have to work harder to deliver quality programming, battle for advertising dollars, while  maintaining and attracting listeners can only be a good thing. Competition breeds success.

Sports talk radio may never reach the expectations our CST friend Doug seems to desire. After all, in the grand scheme of things, what is "sports talk" for the most part, but meaningless arguments and discussions about games and the people that play them? Hardly an exploration of how to stop world hunger, attain world peace, or prevent disease. But to answer Doug's basic question, "Does Cleveland need more sports talk" - I say why the hell not?

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