The sports radio landscape in Houston used to be simple. For years, there was one show: Sports Beat on KTRH. The evening sports show was all Houston sports fans had when it came to sports talk. With the rise of sports talk nationwide, Houston followed suit, first with KILT 610, then KBME 790, ESPN 97.5 The Ticket and, ultimately, 1560 The Game.
Some didn't think that one 24-hour sports talk station could survive, but we have four, and it tends to make for some interesting programming choices as stations scramble for local programming.
The undisputed best sports talk duo for many years was Rich Lord and Charlie Pallilo. They got their start at KTRH and eventually moved to KILT before Pallilo left for KBME where, despite his dry delivery and stats-heavy approach, he managed to craft a successful solo drive-time spot and has been named Best Sports Talk Host in Houston three years running.
Lord, on the other hand, has struggled to find chemistry with a co-host after Pallilo left. A much more affable guy, Lord's buddy-hanging-out-at-the-bar-with-you demeanor worked well with Pallilo's savant knowledge and acerbic tone, but Lord's banter needs a partner and the result has been a string of ill-fated pairings including Kenny Hand, Matt Jackson and, most recently, station sports director Robert Henslee, none of whom managed to fit the bill.
Last week, Lord landed yet another new co-host, Josh Innes. Innes is considered a bit of a wunderkind in sports radio. He began with KILT on the heels of graduating from LSU, having worked as a co-host in Baton Rouge while still in school. His brash, pop-culture-laden shtick was given an opportunity as a lead-in to syndicated host Jim Rome's show. The schedule worked in Innes' favor as he landed two guest host stints in "The Jungle."
But, Innes, at only 24, seems oddly matched with the much more experienced Lord. After listening for a few days last week, Hair Balls has to wonder if the show will survive in its current form and if Lord will be able to stand it if it does.
For starters, Innes began referring to the show as the "Josh and Rich Show" on Lord's day off last week. No doubt, that went over like a fart in church with Lord, who doesn't appear to have much of an ego, but couldn't be thrilled with the young buck giving himself top billing after week one.
When Lord was in the studio, it was as if a circus was going on around him. Innes and the show producer were dropping in so many sound bites, it sounded like there were 20 people in the booth. Lord was constantly interrupted by the incessant playing of an earlier recording of his own voice saying "Geez" sarcastically, something the guys at KILT apparently find hilarious, but isn't funny after the tenth, let alone the hundredth, drop.
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Then there is Innes' unapologetic attitude. Lord worked well with Pallilo because of Lord's laid-back approach. Pallilo is certainly a smart ass of the first order, but he backs it up with a knowledge of sports, baseball in particular, that is unrivaled in Houston (Hell, we'd take odds on him in baseball trivia against all comers.) Innes is just an ass and he's more than happy to tell listeners that on a daily basis.
His tendency to approach topics with a greater emphasis on hyperbole rather than analysis is uncommon to Houston, a fairly tepid sports media town, and stands often in direct opposition to the average Houston sports fan. As a result, Innes has his detractors though his rather quick rise up the ladder at KILT indicates the powers that be at the station aren't among them.
More importantly, the long term question will be: how does Lord feel about it? If the first week on the job is any indication, we can't imagine he is thrilled.
We feel bad for Lord, who is as much an institution in sports radio in Houston as Pallilo, but has been saddled with a string of mismatched co-hosts, which begs the question: when will someone get Rich and Charlie back together again?