On ESPN Radio, a.m. offers best reception

ON MEDIA

September 03, 2004|By RAY FRAGER

LET'S SAY you're a salesman. You're out making calls all day, and you need some diversion.

After all, Alec Baldwin just came into your office and said you can't drink the coffee until you close on some deals. And Kevin Spacey is refusing to give you new leads. (Meanwhile, you're thinking the guys who made Along Came Polly and Pay It Forward shouldn't be telling you how to sell lots down at Glengarry.)

So you decide to pass the time listening to ESPN Radio (heard locally on WJFK (1300 AM) - the Mike Greenberg-Mike Golic team, followed by Colin Cowherd and then Dan Patrick. What are you getting?

Chronologically, here's the view of a guy who couldn't sell space heaters at (for an even older movie reference) Ice Station Zebra:

The Mike and Mike Show (6 a.m.-10 a.m.): Dapper broadcaster Greenberg and ex-NFL defensive lineman Golic make a great Odd Couple. They get plenty of mileage from Greenberg's metrosexual fastidiousness vs. Golic's mustard-stained-shirt slovenliness.

But they take the Felix-Oscar bifurcation even further. While discussing the issues of the day, Greenberg takes the fan's viewpoint and Golic speaks from the ex-pro player's lectern. If Golic seems too ready to take the athletes' side, Greenberg holds up a manicured hand to say, "Whoa, there."

It's fun, it works, it's a great way to start the day.

The Herd with Colin Cowherd (10 a.m.-1 p.m.): Unfortunately for Cowherd, his show didn't just pop onto the air. He replaced Tony Kornheiser, whose cranky hilarity and steadfast refusal to interview athletes made his show a must listen every morning.

By contrast, Cowherd (incidentally, no relation to Sun features columnist Kevin Cowherd) runs a more standard-issue sports talk show. He does it well enough, and his "Spanning the Globe" segment, in which he checks in with sports media folks around the country, can be a fast-paced march through the news of the day. And if you enjoy football, Cowherd schedules a segment on it every day.

On the other hand, his rants can come off as contrived. Remember the old Saturday Night Live sketch in which the radio host couldn't generate any calls and kept trying to be more and more provocative? ("Hitler, not such a bad guy.") And speaking of calls, the listeners aren't adding much when they get on air.

The Dan Patrick Show (1 p.m. to 4 p.m.): Just goes to show you that a terrific SportsCenter anchor doesn't necessarily make a terrific talk show host.

On television, Patrick is intelligent, professional and understated. Maybe we hear that Patrick on radio sometimes, such as yesterday, when he led a reasoned discussion of the Kobe Bryant case. However, there is too much frat-boy humor and the audio equivalent of trading pounds with the athlete guests.

Patrick gets an impressive array of sports figures to come on the air, but the interviews too often remind us of the wisdom of Kornheiser's stance.

Patrick's sidekick, former major league pitcher Rob Dibble, may offer the occasional baseball insight, but otherwise occupies the role of the goofily macho ex-jock. Probably plays well at the Teke house.

Channeling

NBC reports its coverage of the Olympics attracted 203 million "unique" viewers, a record number for Summer Olympics not held in the United States. No word on how many unoriginal or copycat viewers watched. The final prime-time average rating was 15.0, up 9 percent from Sydney. ... Former NFL offensive lineman Aaron Taylor, a two-time All-American at Notre Dame, joins ABC's college football studio show, starting tomorrow at noon. He'll share the set with returnees John Saunders and Craig James.

It's Sunday night racing on NBC (WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4), with a NASCAR Nextel Cup race from California Speedway at 7:30. ... Tonight at 8, ESPNEWS debuts Football Friday, a look at the weekend's big games, college and pro. ... You may have heard ESPN is turning 25. The network takes an uncharacteristic look at itself Monday at 8 p.m. with The ESPN25 Silver Anniversary Special.

Top-rated sports

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore from Aug. 25 through Sept. 1 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program........Day.....Ch. ...Rtg.

Olympics-a 8/26 11 15.3

Olympics-a 8/25 11 12.1

Olympics-a 8/27 11 12.1

Olympics-a 8/29 11 11.6

Olympics-a 8/28 11 10.6

Ravens-Lions 8/28 45 7.3

Olympics-b 8/29 11 7.0

Olympics-b 8/27 11 6.2

Olympics-b 8/29 11 6.1

Titans-Cowboys 8/30 2 5.9

Olympics-b 8/28 11 5.9

a-prime time. b-morning/afternoon Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV.

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