Joni Mitchell once sang that you don’t know what you’ve had until it’s gone.
“We’re glad to get him,” admits KCSP-AM Program Director John Hanson on Henry Lake, the new midday host at “610 Sports Radio” in Kansas City.
Personally I am glad the most talented but underused staffer at KFAN has finally left the area’s longest sports yakker. Lake had never gotten the right exposure, once being second billed with someone named Sludge, doing Vikings and Gophers ‘fan whine’ post-game shows then finally a solo hosting a show in what the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once called, the most segregated hour in America, Sunday mornings at 11.
Now the Minneapolis-born Lake had to take his talent on the road, and thank goodness right in the nick of time. “This is a sports station that believes in my talent,” he says. “They felt I was an answer to what they have going on. It always feels good to be wanted. It always feels good to get an opportunity.”
Lake joins two other Black on-air staffers — a far cry from virtually all-White KFAN, and especially very-all-White 1500 ESPN in an desolate market as the Twin Cities, who if they hire one or two persons of color then they have achieved diversity. These two stations are now joined by the former Love 105, now rechristened “105 The Ticket” with CBS Sports Radio.
According to CBS Radio Senior Vice President Chris Oliviero, who was quoted in a Talkers.com article in January, his national sports network will give listeners “a flavor they cannot get anywhere else.” However after listening, the flavor Oliviero boasts is sour and sad. Nothing fresh here, especially when you have a lineup with retreads Jim Rome and Scott Ferrall among others, but they do have two Blacks: former pro football players Tiki Barber and Brian Jones — which is two more than KFAN and 1500 have combined.
“There is a lot of hard work that people don’t really know about — a lot of stress and strain just being [in] a minority community here that goes along with doing this job,” surmises Lake on his 15-year stint as a now-former lone voice of color on Twin Cities sports radio.
It’s sad that sports radio with Black voices is still Casper-like, whether it’s local or national.
ESPN, Fox and now CBS — it doesn’t matter because they all sound alike — are vanilla favored. Knucklehead faux-know-it-all’s yapping annoyingly to listeners who mostly aren’t looking for anything different. These are mostly people who spout their toxic opinions from the security of the broadcasting studio.
“I’ve been in locker rooms because I think some people in this business don’t believe in going into the locker room and talking to a guy — they always stay at the radio station and criticize the coach or athlete instead of talking to them one-on-one,” notes Lake.
Sports radio is in need of a diversity infusion.
“The way that I look at sports through my eyes as an African American male,” Lake points out, “people need to wake up and grow up and know that when it comes to all kinds of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, sports should not be looked upon or talked about in a single voice, meaning just a Caucasian voice on the radio. There should be a strong influx or presence of African Americans, people from the Hispanic community, Asian Americans. If we are talking about this world and this country as a melting pot, the media should be no different.”
“We know Henry’s experience, sports knowledge and energetic personality will help” KCSP, says Hanson who calls 610 Sports Radio “the most-listened-to sports station in Kansas City.”
Lake now has top billing on “The Dayshift with Lake and Bink,” co-hosting with Jay Binkley.
“I hope it is a positive thing,” concludes Lake on his new gig in K.C. “Me being somebody who doesn’t look like them or maybe don’t think like them that I have something positive to bring to the sports conversation. I don’t know how long I am going to be here. I just want to get a good opportunity to showcase my talent and be able to voice my opinion.”
It’s a shame that he couldn’t have done it more prominently at the now all-White KFAN.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.