Let’s Talk About Whatever It Is ESPN Radio Is Doing

Yesterday, ESPN Radio announced a new lineup ready to be unveiled in August. If you’re a sports talk radio nerd like me, this is big news. And while this entire blog is entirely my own biased opinion, I feel it does carry some merit with the decade-plus I’ve spent in the industry on both the local and national levels. If that last sentence sounded a bit too douchey and self-important, that’s because I spent the last decade-plus in the industry on both the local and national levels.

SOURCE ESPN Radio will unveil a powerful new weekday lineup beginning Monday, Aug. 17, featuring signature, multi-platform personalities, all of whom either currently work on or previously hosted shows on ESPN Radio.

Mike Greenberg, who co-hosted one of the most successful sports talk radio shows in history for 18 years, will return to host The Mike Greenberg Show from noon-2 p.m. ET.

Here’s a look at their new weekday lineup after August 17th:

Image via Awful Announcing.

First off, I haven’t been able to find a single good explanation as to why ESPN is taking an hour away from one of the nation’s top-rated programs in the country, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. I know too much of a good thing is a bad thing, less is more, blah blah blah. But not in this case. This is the one show on ESPN Radio that I’d put up against any show on Fox Sports Radio. At the end of the day, sports talk radio is part of the entertainment industry, and many people fail to understand that the ratings follow the most entertaining programs, which is ironic considering the first letter of ESPN’s acronym.

But the show isn’t all grab ass. You know how comedians a lot of times are better dramatic actors than most actors? The same applies with Le Batard’s show. Sure, it may be a funny, self-aware, and self-deprecating clown house, but they have some of the most insightful conversations I’ve ever heard on radio. I may not agree with Dan Le Batard on all political and/or social stances he takes, but I respect the hell out of the discussion they conduct and the opinions they cultivate from guests.

So why would ESPN try to limit that more?

Furthermore, if you see success in one area, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t try and replicate it? Le Batard is the most entertaining show on ESPN Radio, and instead of trying to find talent and/or formats to match that, they cut his show by an hour to make room for four hours of one of their least interesting NFL analysts, Keyshaun Johnson. I don’t mind Keyshaun breaking down the NFL, but I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather hear less from when it comes to Major League Baseball or the Stanley Cup Final. I’m already turning my radio dial (And radios haven’t had dials for at least 15 years). I understand that giant corporations need to go green to reduce their carbon footprint, but they don’t need to reduce, reuse, and recycle their talent.

And it’s not like ESPN doesn’t have the young, entertaining talent. I know she just took the NFL Live gig, but people like Mina Kimes (a person who springboard in to success in large part thanks to Dan Le Batard) are the ones they need to be building around. And to ESPN’s credit, they have – by making Kimes the host of their ESPN Daily podcast and now the NFL Live gig. But there should be more of that. The most successful and biggest growing companies in this ever-changing industry are the ones who have been proactive in their ability to find, sign, and further develop talent. Say what you want about The Ringer or Barstool, but they’ve built all-star lineups of talent that are built for sustainable success for the long run. Not recycling more Mike Greenburg, who’s ESPN career is older than the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano.

Second, let’s talk about Mike Greenberg. Who at ESPN does Greenie have nude pictures of?

Look, Mike Greenberg is a very good broadcaster. Very professional. Extremely talented. But he has the personality and entertainment value of a wet cardboard box. No offense to any wet cardboard boxes who may be reading this. For twenty years, he played the “nerd role” in contrast of Mike Golic’s “jock role” on Mike and Mike. And somewhere along the lines, someone thought this nerd role deserved to break free and try his own solo career. Pretty sure will.I.am will tell you that not everyone was built to go solo. Some people are better in a band. But yet, here we are, with Greenie getting his OWN midday radio show? It’s hard for a nerd role to live on its own. Even Freaks and Geeks only lasted one season. Greenie used to have a podcast through ESPN that only lasted a few months called I’m Interested. Apparently no one else was though. At least they didn’t falsely call it I’m Interesting.

Greenie’s a big Northwestern guy, which fits because he’s the Northwestern football of radio personalities. Sure, he’s intelligent, but he’s not the most entertaining brand, and only people in the broadcasting industry seem to enjoy him.

And I’m don’t want to waste any keystrokes on Max Kellerman. Aside from him being Skip Bayless Lite (same great taste, but fewer calories), he’s just not interesting. Again, just my opinion.

But the most important and most disappointing sentence in the press release: “all of whom either currently work on or previously hosted shows on ESPN Radio.”

This brings me to my next argument. Apparently the programmers on the national level are just as lazy and predictable as the programmers (note: most, but not all) on local levels. They’d rather recycle names than discover, groom, and/or develop new ones. Why? My guess is because the latter takes work. Now look, I’m not naive. There are more factors at play in decisions like these. Mainly money. Sponsors would rather roll with the already established name than take a chance with new talent. I mean we live in an era of rotating Colonel Sanderses (Is that the plural or Sanders?), all of which being big name celebrities. That’s why the lamest of the lame radio hosts always send it to commercial by saying something like, “We gotta pay the bills!” Because money does drive the ship. But this fact unfortunately leads to many programmers looking at follower counts when making decisions, rather than listening to the actual boring, stale, and same-old same-old on-air products those follower counts produce.

All in all, this news is pretty disappointing from the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader. Sports talk radio, as a whole, could be and should be so much better. And ESPN could be and should be on the forefront of cultivating new, talented, and entertaining names. But instead they’d rather play it safe, boring, and put fresh coats of paint on their sun-faded “talents.” And yeah, I’m doing the air quotes gesture with my hands when I say that.

Let’s just meet back here in a year or two when they ultimately change things around again after these shows fail to live up to the unfortunate expectations they have for them.

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