Rome in a Day

Jim Rome has created a new lexicon for the sports-obsessed. Hell, he's created a new cult, for that matter. Rome's listeners, or clones, consist of legions of fans who live and breathe The Jungle. They not only follow the show compulsively, but mimic the host's lingo: "Smack" is sports talk, "monkeys" are radio program directors, and "getting run" is being hung up on and derided.

Akin to Trekkers, Deadheads and Dittoheads, clones are what Norman Chad, a syndicated columnist, classified in Sport magazine as "an audience I'm hopeful will never be in my living room." Clones will hold for hours just to talk to their hero. (One man even spoke to Rome from the delivery room while his wife gave birth.) Others compare the obsessed listeners to an electronic lynch mob. Just last year, when Houston's KILT Star 610-AM Sports Radio threatened to delay the show by one hour, a nationwide mutiny erupted, flooding the station's switchboards with calls until the program was broadcast at its regular time.

Now, you can meet the clones up close and personal -- if you dare. The Jim Rome World Tour arrives Saturday in Houston, the first of Rome's affiliate cities to get a third visit. "I'm thrilled to go back to H-town," says Rome. "They were the first major market for The Jungle." The last tour stop in C-town (Cleveland) featured onstage appearances from athletes, coaches, owners and politicians, and drew 19,000 fans from around the nation. With Drayton McLane already signed on for the Houston event, and several Astros also expected to put in an appearance, attendance could exceed 20,000.

One thing's for sure: The self-described pimp-in-the-box from C-town is going to make a lot of jack for running smack at this stop. And if you've got no idea what that means, you probably don't belong there.

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John W. Royal