If you listen closely, there are places to talk sports


November 10, 1999|By Milton Kent

While Charm City pats itself on the community back over the Ravens' flogging of Cleveland, Baltimore has fallen behind, of all places, Fresno, Calif., in an important category.

Believe it or not, there are more sports talk radio stations in the raisin capital of the world (two) than in the Queen City of the Patapsco River drainage basin (zero), and one of Mayor-elect Martin O'Malley's first duties when he is sworn in next month is to rectify this situation.

All right, so the new mayor has a few more important things to worry about, and it isn't as if there isn't good sports talk around.

Gerry Sandusky, for instance, does a solid, nightly two-hour show on WBAL (1090 AM) that is uniformly excellent, and station fill-in Steve Melewski has proven to be pretty good during his infrequent shows.

Over on WJFK (1300 AM), Stan "The Fan" Charles' nightly show is usually worth a listen. That is, when he isn't pandering to the lowest common denominator, as he increasingly has since he moved a couple of years ago. And Tom Matte's analysis on the weekly Saturday afternoon Ravens show, with co-host Bruce Cunningham, is considerably better than his work during Ravens games on Sunday.

In addition, WJFK airs "The Sports Junkies" each weeknight, while Nestor Aparicio's program airs on WCBM (680 AM) Monday through Friday.

Ted Patterson does a weekly show from McCafferty's each Monday on WCBM (680 AM), with Ravens coach Brian Billick facing the mikes each Tuesday on WJFK, while defensive tackle Tony Siragusa has a Thursday program, same station. And The Sun's Ken Rosenthal's WJFK show broadcasts each Saturday and on Sundays when the Ravens' game airs late.

However, with the August demise of WNST, the city's first attempt at all-sports talk, and WBAL's unfortunate decision to scrap most of its post-Sandusky talk from ESPN radio each night, Baltimore's chances to chat have been trimmed considerably.

For many Baltimoreans, particularly in southern Baltimore County and most of Anne Arundel and Howard counties, Washington's WTEM (980 AM) provides a daytime source for sports talk with its 50,000 watt signal.

The best talk on the station is the brilliant "Imus In The Morning" show from 5: 30 to 10 a.m., where the bulk of the discussion is not sports-oriented. But a number of Imus contributors, for instance, Boomer Esiason, Tim McCarver and Howie Long, bring sports talk to the table, and it's nearly always interesting. WTEM also carries shows with Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser and former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson during the day, as well as syndicated talker Jim Rome.

For daytime listeners with a computer and a sound card, the best sports talk option is the Internet, where many of the country's biggest and best sports talk stations make their signals available. The easiest way to access the stations is from the URL http: //www.sportsworld.com/ sportsguys/index.stm#

Among the stations up and running on the World Wide Web are Los Angeles' KAVL, Minneapolis' KFAN, Seattle's KJR, San Francisco's KNBR, Pittsburgh's WTAE, Miami's WQAM, Dallas' KTCK, and perhaps the biggest, San Diego's XTRA. And Baltimoreans with long memories will get a kick out of hearing Jim Traber, a former Orioles first baseman and Columbia native whose show airs from 3 to 6: 30 p.m. on Oklahoma City's KNTL.

A fish story

The results of Fox's first foray into the fishing hole Sunday are decidedly mixed.

The network posted a 2.5 overnight Nielsen rating with a 5 share of the audience, which isn't bad considering that the overnights are compiled from mostly urban markets and that the fishing tournament finals aired against football in most of the country. It's not so far-fetched to think that the rating might actually go up a tad when national numbers, which better reflect rural ratings, are released later this week.

As for the telecast, well, let's say it was a noble attempt. For a sport where quiet is such a hallmark, there were few moments of silence during the 90 minutes, except on some occasions when anchor Joe Buck tried to talk to some of the contestants, but was unable to because of technical problems.

Fox was caught in tough netting, having to balance the presentation of a new sport -- at least new for network television -- with keeping the experienced outdoorsmen happy. The graphics and sound effects seemed a bit out of place, and the ending was rather confusing. But it was a nice first try.

"It's not like it was a football game, where everybody understands what's going on," said Dan Bell, a Fox spokesman. "We were trying to find a medium between explaining the sport, while presenting it to viewers. That was the challenge of the event."

There was one pleasant benefit to the fishing telecast. The more time a viewer spent there, the less he was forced to listen to CBS football analyst Beasley Reece.

Reece, arguably the worst NFL analyst working now that Jerry Glanville is in the studio, turned in another dreadful performance during the Ravens-Browns game, repeating nonsensical points ad nauseam.

At a number of points, Reece seemed disappointed that Cleveland fans weren't rioting or at least weren't more raucous than they were, as if holding up giant foam hands with the middle finger raised wasn't rowdy enough behavior.

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