The most entertaining sports talk show…

…in Seattle Friday at 3pm was not a sports talk show.  It was neither The Kevin Calabro Show (a show I really like) nor the long running show on KJR hosted by Mike Gastineau. 

It was The Ron and Don Show heard on a news-talk station, 97.3 KIRO-FM.


Simply because they took me, the listener, inside a subject that I really cared about in an entertaining manner.  And they did so with a sense of urgency.  They didn’t simply crack the mikes at 3p…they dug and dug and dug to find compelling audio to further their feature.  They drilled for nuggets that would make it stronger.  They’re description and use of great audio in regard to a great run by Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch held me for over 15-minutes…

Don: “…everyone at that point had sat down and they were looking for their beer or hot beverage…”
Ron: “The Philadelphia Eagles were calling their next play!”
Don: “Calling their next defensive play…I think the Eagles were caught off guard, and I think the crowd…was caught off guard, too…it was an unbelievable run and you can tell he’s in a contract year…”
Ron: “I’m a sucker for people who work at a very high level describing how they do something and so I’ll watch Inside the Actor’s Studio, that’s why I like watching cooking shows…these interview shows where someone takes you behind the scenes and they explain to you the process they go through to operate at a very high level.”

Anyone can flip open a mic’ to talk about a subject.  They took it a step further by daring to be great…by digging for great audio…by pushing their show to be it’s best!
  Pick up audio at 7:40 as they set-up NFL Films interviewing Marshawn Lynch about “beast mode,” why he treats himself to Skittles after a great play, how Lynch’s mom conducts herself during games AND how Ron and Don explain what NFL Films is so that the casual sports fan can share in this great feature.

So what’s great about this feature?

  • They share a ton of fantastic nuggets about Lynch.
  • They dig up and use GREAT audio to take the listener inside a story that matters to them. 
  • They take time to explain why they think this story is important.
  • And of course, they sweep two quarter hours with great content. 

If you agree with me, that this is great radio, I hope you’ll learn from what they are doing.  I hope they’re great work inspires you.  You can continue to flip open the mic’s and talk, or you can take your game to the next level, by incorporating storytelling and sound into your show.  There’s no reason you can’t dig up audio that helps you create entertaining and insightful content that will resonate with your audience.  It just takes a little effort, creativity and the want to be great.

Ron and Don have earned some Skittles from Mama Lynch.



Further thoughts on my last post open the phones in which I wrote that I wasn’t against hosts opening up the phones for “your calls next!”  Clearly it drives 99% of pd’s in talk-radio nuts.  As one once said to me, “I’ve never seen a perceptual study or had a listener group tell me they tune in to hear other callers.”  Fair enough, but I hate, HATE, rules in radio.  To me, great talent can make almost anything GREAT.  Let’s think about what a caller driven segment can be – a fast paced, controlled, passionate, multi-topic segment focused on what listeners AND hosts care about.

Now think about the larger point: you can break all the rules, create something out of nothing, you can make anything great, if you decide to make it great.  Even the dreaded open phones segment.  It’s like what my former co-host Mike Heller would always say: “It’s not about play calling, it’s about execution.”  

Consider what music stations do when they take requests…are they really letting listeners dictate what songs they play?  Of course not.  They’re simply allowing the listener to pick a song, already on their play-list, to participate (cough) live and on-air…in a pre-recorded sort of way.  The station, not the listener, is dictating the content, yet the listener feels like they are part of that equation.  This, to me, is what an open phones segment can be. 

You hear that Mr. Anderson?

Someone on the website pointed out that Karsch and Anderson on WXYT-FM in Detroit open phones for 3-hours a day and their show is going gangbusters…it’s funny, but they were the inspiration for my post.  Allow myself to explain…myself…

I had a day off last week, so I decided to listen to two of the top sports talk stations in the country: WBZ-FM in Boston and WXYT-FM in Detroit, each for different reasons: WXYT because it is the only sports station in the country dominating ALL stations in its’ market. WBZ because it took on WEEI and in a short period of time, beat them.  If content is king, as we hear over and over, I wanted to know how they did it and wondered if there are  commonalities that led to success…

  • Both are in the CBS Radio Family: Important.  These guys understand how to build winning sports brands. 
  • Both are on FM: You cannot underline this point enough. The size of audience on FM is staggering in comparison to AM and many FM listeners NEVER flip to the older band.
  • Partnerships: WXYT and their CBS Radio family seem to have every sports team in history on their dial while WBZ has the Bruins and Patriots.  You cannot beat the cume a major sports team will bring to your station, although I tend to think local NFL teams are overvalued as they only bring cume for 16 dates a year (not including playoffs) while a MLB team or popular NHL team does it 80+ days a year. 
  • Talent: Their shows always have two hosts that possess great sports knowledge, BIG opinions, but most importantly, they entertain and engage each other.  I have to wonder how great these shows could be with a bit of planning, but regardless, it’s infectious.  Oh, and they…
  • Play the hits: Both stations are hyper-focused on what the audience in their market cares about, and they deliver it with two-man shows that appear, to my ears, to be long on chemistry (important) and short on guests (like this, too).  
  • Tons of fan interaction via phones, e-mail and social media.  Remember, your P1’s are, IMO, the one’s most likely to wear a meter at some point.  Who else would be that nuts?  Better love `em up. 

Interestingly, both stations are formatic disasters: mediocre to non-existent teases, numerous un-focused caller segments with antiquated imaging (paging Jim Cutler, come in Jim Cutler).  But maybe some of us need to step back and consider that simply put, both stations are doing exceptionally well, thus formatics are clearly not vital in building a winning radio station.  What they are is the icing on the cake, that takes a very good product and makes it great. I can only imagine what both stations share of the available audience would look like if they were stronger formatically.

For stations like WEEI in Boston, 95.7 in San Fran’, 1500 ESPN in Minneapolis, etc., winning the formatics game feels like an opportunity. 


Finally, I want to thank you for slowly turning this blog into something big.  It’s exciting to watch my numbers grow with each post and it’s amazing to have so many reach out for coaching.  Hopefully what I write inspires you to create entertaining and insightful radio that resonates with your audience.


About Owen 181 Articles
Current sports radio talent coach, former PD at The Beast 980 (L.A.) and 710 ESPN Seattle who was also lucky enough to produce ESPN Radio's Dan Patrick Show. Fixing sports radio one neglected host at a time. Follow me on Twitter @SportRadioCoach.