Cover Story: For Love of the Game

When working on this week's feature story, I was surprised at just how much help my background as a musician would help me, especially since I was writing about a sports radio station.

Over the last 25 years, I've spent a lot of time in bars, recording studios and rehearsal spaces with other musicians. While these are certainly places to hone your craft and hopefully make something not entirely devoid of artistic merit, they are also clubhouses for like-minded weirdos. As often as we work on and talk about music, we discuss sports, movies and girls (though not nearly as much as we did when we were in our 20s). We try to remember the name of the guy that played Rerun on What's Happening!!, crack jokes about Charlie Sheen and mercilessly give each other shit from the moment we walk through the door. It's as if we leave our maturity outside and embrace our adolescence for a few hours.

Hanging around at KGOW 1560 the Game for a week, both in the studio and in the "bullpen," where most of the guys prep for their shows, I may as well have been in a recording studio. The topics leaned towards sports, but only slightly. When Lance Zierlein, co-host of the morning show, criticized Bel Biv DeVoe on air by saying he was "painting it with an awfully broad brush" when DeVoe warned fans to "never trust a big butt and a smile" in his song "Poison," I realized this was exactly like rehearsal.

It's no surprise then to find out that 1560's personalities and creative staff include a former musician/wine dealer, a one-time high school football coach turned CPA, a former oil field tools salesman who writes musicals and the five-time winner of the Jim Rome "Smack Off" who was the vice president of sales for a telecommunications company. Of course, they also have the the former producer of the Jim Rome show and one of the most well-respected talk show duos in Houston radio.

KGOW is a locally owned independent and, like many small businesses without the benefit of corporate backing, it has not been easy. They have consistently ranked last in the ratings behind the three other sports radio stations in the Houston-Galveston market and they have had to fight through a transmission signal that could best be described as kinda adequate.

But, they have carved out their place in Houston sports radio as irreverent, funny and, above all, entertaining. Whether it's going on the air in the wee hours after a few cocktails and turning the studio into a laser light show while interviewing the man who played Boba Fett in Star Wars or having a "draft anything" show that includes afternoon host Travis Rodgers saying he "considered drafting Aaron Brooks, not because I needed a point guard, but because I run a celebrity look-alike agency and my Billy Ocean just quit," the guys at the Game are going to keep things interesting.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke