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Sports Talk? It's Tough in the Mornings

December 17, 1999|LARRY STEWART

Looking for a sports talk show to fill the time during your morning commute?

What you get on "all-sports" KXTA (1150) is more akin to the "Gong Show." In one segment Thursday morning the hosts were trying to guess the theme songs from old TV shows, which is typical for that station.

And the station is moving even farther away from sports. Derrick Hall, one KXTA guy with class and sophistication, not to mention talent, did his last morning show Wednesday. The former Dodger publicist, after taking some vacation time, is returning to the club Jan. 1 in the role of senior vice president of communications.

The station will soon begin airing a non-sports syndicated morning show from Indianapolis, "Bob and Tom."

There is XTRA (690) with John Fricke, Sean Salisbury and Julie Broman, but that is a San Diego show, and it sometimes veers away from sports too.

So what's a real sports fan to do to get his morning fix?

Try KCTD (1540), part of the One on One Sports network. There is a 7-11 a.m. show that actually deals with sports, which these days seems to be a novel idea for sports-talk radio.

The host is Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti, who is topical, knows the issues, gets good guests and is opinionated. You may not agree with his opinions, but that's OK.

Thursday's show included discussions of Notre Dame, Rae Carruth and Cecil Collins, all topical.

The key to Mariotti's show is that the host is a journalist.

"Too much of radio is guys who have an act but no journalist background," he said. "You've got guys doing radio shows who used to sell hot dogs."

Mark Gentzkow, One on One's vice president of programming, said, "We want to be entertaining but also credible. Having a newspaper columnist like Jay on the air gives us the credibility we need."

Another thing is, Mariotti knows how to chase a story. For example, last spring, when a Wichita State pitcher, during warmups, threw at an Evansville player in the on-deck circle and hit him in the face, Mariotti tracked down the player who got hit.

The player, Anthony Molina, has been a guest several times as Mariotti continues to follow the story. Molina still has vision problems and the pitcher, Ben Christensen, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. At the time of the incident, Christensen said he threw at Molina because he thought he was trying to measure his pitches from the on-deck circle.

Mariotti, 40, the father of two girls, keeps plenty busy doing a daily radio show and four newspaper columns a week. But he doesn't want to give up either job.

"The column gives me the credibility I need to do the radio show," he said.


KXTA program director Mike Thompson, declining to talk specifics, said, "We're making some changes but not planning to get rid of anybody. We'll probably have some announcements next week."

He did say Arnie Spanier, formerly of One on One, would soon be part of his station's lineup. He had no comment on "Bob and Tom." Bob and Tom are Bob Kevoian and Tom Griswold. Kevoian is from Norwalk and went to Long Beach State.


Dick Enberg may very well end up at CBS, but no deal has been struck and no announcement is planned. His agent, Ed Hookstratten, didn't begin negotiations with CBS until Wednesday.

News that Enberg was headed for CBS broke late last week in Boston, where Sean McDonough told a couple of Boston writers that CBS was not going to renew his contract and that room was needed for Enberg.

Sean McManus, CBS Sports president, told McDonough that the decision not to renew his contract was based on financial considerations since CBS had to hire a number of announcers when it acquired the NFL. McManus also said CBS had a shot at Enberg.

From that grew the story that Enberg, because of his desire to do NFL football, was CBS' newest employee and an announcement was forthcoming.

"There is a lot of important stuff that has to be worked out," Enberg said Thursday. "I'm sure the financial end will be fine, and, contrary to what has been written, I don't have to be the No. 1 guy on the NFL. I've done eight Super Bowls, so it wouldn't bother me if someone else does the Super Bowl. Same with the NCAA tournament, but it would be nice to be reunited with Billy Packer and Al McGuire for a game or two.

"The key issue, I think, would be my schedule. I would want to have time to spend with my family."

He and wife Barbara have three children--Nicole, 15; Emily, 13, and Ted, 11--and he has three grown children from a previous marriage.

"It's been 25 terrific years at NBC, and if I do leave I'd be leaving behind a lot of very good friends," he said. "But maybe it would be good to begin the new century with a new challenge."


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