Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Great Sports Radio Faceoff Part 1

For the rest of the week, since there are no more college sports until mid-August, Lance Armstrong seems to have a firm grip on the Yellow Jersey, and there's really nothing to report from the baseball front for a while, Cheap Seats is going to do something a little different.

This is a blog post I've been wanting to do for a long time. ESPN Radio vs. Fox Sports Radio

As I've stated before, I'm a sports talk junkie. I have both major sports talk networks, ESPN and Fox Sports, in my market. So I have an opportunity to listen to both and compare. And my next few posts will be used to do a time slot by time slot comparison of each network.

Besides, it's the duty of the blogosphere to critique the rest of the media.

Here's the criteria I use:

Show Format: Anyone can have a show where the host talks and the callers respond, with an occasional guest thrown in, which is the format of most local shows. Does the show do anything different with the standard format? What type of guests do they have?
Host: Obviously, a host has to have personality and be able to communicate clearly. He also has to be able to keep the discussion moving, but at the same time allow all sides of an issue to be heard, not just the opinions he or she agrees with (Hanging up on a caller who disagrees with the host may work on the Rush Limbaugh show or Air America, but not on sports talk radio). A host can have personal preferences, but they have to be able to criticize their team or their guys. The host also has to be a good interviewer. The host has to have a well thought out opinion. If the host is a former player or coach, they also have to be able to provide insight.
Crew: The primary job of the crew is to keep the show flowing and take care of the technical side of the show. They are only evaluated on their on-air skills if they are a major part of the show ("Phil the Showkiller" on the Dan Patrick Show, for instance)
Sports Update Anchor: Must be clear and concise when delivering updates. If they are part of the show, they have to be able to add to it, not take away from it.
Callers: How well does the show screen callers and emailers? If the ones who make the air are intelligent and add to the discussion, then they are doing their job. Also, how does the show involve the callers?

So we start with the insomniacs...

Overnight
Fox Sports Radio: The Third Shift, hosted by Jorge Sedano
ESPN Radio: All Night, hosted by Todd Wright

A battle of 2 Florida-based hosts (Sedano does the show out of Miami, and Wright does the show out of Tampa and occasionally the ESPN Club in Orlando), which is really strange because they both come on pretty late in the evening Florida time.

Show Format
Third Shift: Basically, you're listening to Sedano talk about sports while the crew reacts to his opinions. Then a caller talks. No guests at all. Boring.
All Night: Todd Wright does talk sports, but he also branches out to things guys are interested in: pop culture and beautiful women. The show also is able to land a lot of guests, from sports experts to Maxim models to TV actors. It also helps that he has regular guests like Trot Nixon and Ryan Longwell, guys that aren't stars, but athletes that fans can relate to. It breaks the mold of "host talks, then callers talk" trap that a lot of sports talk radio falls into.
Edge: All Night

Hosts
Third Shift: Sedano has an unnaturally high amount of energy at that hour of the night, which helps for those listening who are pulling all-nighters (as many among the lower end of the male 18-34 "sports demographic" are usually doing at that hour) and keeps those listening drunk awake (as the majority of males 18-34 are doing at that hour). However, Sedano kills the show with his incessant homerism for most South Florida teams, especially the Heat (whom he works for during the basketball season). He also interrupts and hangs up on callers who disagree with his opinion, ask any Detroit fan who tried to get through during the Eastern Conference Finals or anyone trying to say that Steve Nash is the MVP.
All Night: Wright is witty, insightful, and an underrated interviewer. He's also fair and is willing to criticize anyone, even if the target is a regular guest or is a team that Wright likes. Wright also takes chances that others aren't willing to take if it means keeping the show fresh and interesting. He also refuses to let corporations dictate what a stadium should be called, which more radio hosts and broadcasters should do (after all, they don't get a cut of the naming rights money).
Edge: All Night

Crew
Third Shift: OK on the mic, but not great. Producer Marcel Hall tries to bring up other points, but all that does is give Jorge an excuse to shoot them down. Some of the sound effects they use seem mistimed and out of place. Rim shots are often late, for instance. Other than that, no one's too loud, and the bump music is on cue.
All Night: The sound levels are great and almost all the production elements work without detracting from the show. While many of the interviews are on tape, the producers are experts in making it sound live. "The Tussle" is where the crew really shines, however, as their frequently off-the-wall questions bring fresh topics into the discussion.
Edge: All Night

Sports Update Anchor
Third Shift: Karen Kay is a competent sports update anchor. However, the rest of the crew shoots down her opinions and badgers her too much about her personal life. Given the chance, she could add something to the discussion.
All Night: Jay Reynolds is probably one of the best, most professional sports update people out there, and adds to the discussion during "The Tussle".
Edge: All Night

Callers
Third Shift: Do they screen these guys at all? Too many callers slip past to drop "f-bombs" and "shizzles". When they are using normal language, a lot of them are just horrible.
All Night: When they open up the phone lines, they manage to find all the callers in North America that are coherent at 2:30 in the morning. They also have creative games to involve callers like "The All Night Aptitude Test" and "Know your Major Leaguers"
Edge: All Night

Overall
All Night
It's not even close, everything about All Night is better.

Tomorrow: The Morning Guys
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