My top wish for the New Year: better sports radio

AnotherViewsquareThis columnist usually doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions, but if I did, like a 1978 Angela Bofill song title, the only thing I’d wish for in 2016 is a “serious” sports talk station.

I mean a station like J.G. Preston’s old Saturday afternoon show when KNOW was on AM, Mark Gray’s “Sports Groove” when “The Power” was on XM Radio, and ESPN’s “The Right Stuff with Bomani Jones,” which we can only hear on its national website.

Amateur radio station
Amateur radio station

NPR’s “Only a Game,” once heard locally on KNOW, is still on the air, but you have to find a computer or some other type of high-tech device to hear the weekly program that originates from Boston.

Whether in the Twin Cities or Mayberry, sports talk radio sounds virtually the same. Mr. Peabody-like hosts yakkety-yak endlessly, with callers acting like they are calling a Dr. Phil “whine line.” Hosts sound like wannabee athletes and coaches who use the airwaves to spew out their often-nonsensical chatter. This sad cookie-cutter programming is no different on the national sports networks.

I’ve been listening to radio before I attended kindergarten and have heard nearly every radio programming format imaginable over the years. I know what good radio sounds like, and I haven’t heard it around these parts for quite some time.

Personally, I believe a serious sports-talk format should, in no particular order, possess the following:

  • A knowledgeable host with some personality, someone who talks to the listener and doesn’t bark at them
  • Long-form stories and features — more reporting and less top-of-the-hour updates, which for the most part aren’t updates at all. More expert and “insiders” appearances
  • Keep call-ins to a minimum — use the Joe Madison rule of one call a week by callers. Use real names, not silly monikers
  • Sidekicks are like a third wheel on a date. This applies to sports radio as well. One host. Co-hosts. But a “third” voice, usually the so-called producer’s, is too often annoying and distracting to the listener, let alone typically adding nothing to the conversation
  • More diversity of voices. Former athletes don’t count, nor do airhead-sounding females. There are many females out there who can talk sports from a knowledge base and not be giggly.
  • A balance between men’s and women’s sports (“Only a Game” is the only show that does this.)

Since its debut in 2013, Sirius XM NBA Radio, for the most part, comes the closest to my ideal of a sports talk station: diverse voices — 11 of the hosts are Black, knowledgeable, and entertaining; and regular use of “insiders” and experts. Since it’s NBA-focused, the station normally stays on topic. My only complaint is the overnight repeat programing.

HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” is the only sports show on television worth fitting into my busy schedule. I used to watch ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” but I haven’t watched it since it expanded to a five-times-a-week format.

Although it is hosted by John Saunders, and has its share of Blacks on the panel, the weekly “The Sports Reporters” has become very predictable and has moved from a good sports roundtable show to now a show where participants are seemingly more interested in who can out-quip the other. Bofill’s song lyrics weren’t asking specifically for this, but “…if I had just one wish, the only thing I would wish for…” is better-sounding sports talk.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to