After spending the better part of two weeks listening to XTRA and KMPC, staff writer and former talk - show enthusiast Gene Wojciechowski offers his very subjective rankings of the stations' on-air talent. The results:
1) LEE HAMILTON (XTRA)
Strengths: A radio voice to die for. . . . The most distinctive sports talk show in the local market (KMPC's Jim Healy would win if all categories were included). . . . A work ethic second to none. . . . A well-developed and constantly updated collection of reference material. . . . An effective shtick ("Talk to me, San Diego . . . "). . . . The most answered calls per hour. . . . Name recognition aided by work on Charger and San Diego State broadcasts.
Weaknesses: A sense of humor wouldn't hurt. After all, it's only sports. . . . In his effort to know something about everything, Hamilton sometimes stretches himself too thin. . . . Can't resist a juicy rumor, however threadbare in fact. . . . Should make it clear to listeners that the Newsmaker Line isn't always a live interview.
Summary: In the busy afternoon drive-time slot, Hamilton attracts the sports-show listeners considered most important by ratings experts--men, ages 25-54. If we were KMPC, we would have tried to hire him, too.
2) JIM LAMPLEY (KMPC)
Strengths: Doesn't take himself or sports too seriously. . . . Versatile--can handle light or serious topics and interviews with equal aplomb. . . . Surprisingly funny and quirky. . . . A boxing expert. . . . Can attract big-time guests because of national reputation. . . . Willing to experiment with his format. . . . Understands that his callers are co-stars of the show.
Weaknesses: Not always the best-prepared host. He recently asked U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling Coach Bobby Douglas about his Arizona State program. Douglas coaches at Iowa State, not Arizona State. . . . Theme song sends listeners screaming into the streets.
Summary: Lampley's subtle, off-beat style is fun. Simple as that.
3) CHET FORTE (XTRA)
Strengths: We could listen to him talk about the inside world of television sports for hours. . . . Despite his well-publicized past personal problems, Forte earns listener credibility because of his ties to ABC. . . . Very opinionated. . . . Seems interested in what the caller has to say.
Weaknesses: Is there a commercial he doesn't do? At last count: limousines, credit agencies, permanent hair restoration, logo companies and Italian restaurants. . . . Occasional sexist remarks. An example: When actress Sean Young visited co-host Steve Hartman at the Santa Monica XTRA location, Forte remarked the next day, "I'd like to take a limousine drive with her." . . . Can suck up to guests with the best of them.
Summary: Forte's days as a TV director serve him well here. He knows how to take a topic and squeeze the most out of it. Without Forte, "The Loose Cannons" would be indistinguishable.
4) JOE McDONNELL (KMPC)
Strengths: A rarity in radio: A talk-show host who isn't afraid to fight for a scoop. Unlike many of his peers, McDonnell actually knows how to work a locker room or clubhouse. He actually attends games. . . . Extremely knowledgeable when it comes to the Lakers and Dodgers. . . . Says exactly what he thinks. . . . Breaks stories.
Weaknesses: Stubborn to a fault. Joe, you really wouldn't trade Sam Perkins for Hakeem Olajuwon? Betcha Jerry West would. . . . Has a vindictive streak when it comes to newspaper TV-radio columnists and XTRA (calls it "that Baja station"). . . . Needs to refine studio work.
Summary: A bit on the raw side when it comes to talk radio, but we definitely would want him on our team.
5) STEVE MASON (XTRA)
Strengths: A former publicity director for the minor league Toledo Mud Hens and rotisserie league owner extraordinaire, Mason knows baseball. . . . Imagine David Letterman doing a sports-talk show. Reduce the nonsense factor by a third and you have Mason. . . . A clever style.
Weaknesses: We could do without the civic lessons. On election day he kept reminding everyone that people had died to secure our right to vote. . . . One request: Enough with the Steve Hawt-man dialect. . . . A bit too smug on occasion.
Summary: Mason combines the right amount of sports knowledge with the proper amount of irreverence.
6) JIM ROME (XTRA)
Strengths: Producer Tom Tutino hustles hard to get Rome great guests. In a week's time, Rome had Ted Williams, Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky, Ozzie Smith and Jim Valvano on the show. . . . Makes hockey a priority. . . . In your face from show's beginning. . . . Makes the most of a so-so time slot (7-midnight). . . . Isn't afraid to work. Worked so hard he developed an ulcer when he was 25. He's 27 now. . . . Only Hamilton talks with more callers per hour.