One of the arguments against expansion in pro sports leagues is that it dilutes the talent pool. There are enough great players to fill out the lineups for 30 teams, but are there enough for 32? It's an important factor to consider.
On Monday, 1560 KGOW fired Adam Clanton and John Wessling, hosts of the Afternoon Delight show. They will move our own Sean Pendergast and longtime morning stalwart John Granato to the afternoon slot and fill the mornings with national programming from their Yahoo! Sports Radio network. KGOW is no stranger to shuffling lineups, going from upstart independent to mangled conglomerate in only two years.
But it underscored to me the fact that we have four full-time sports stations in Houston, KGOW, 790 KBME, 610 KILT and 97.5 FM KFNC (also owned by Gow Communications), but really only the talent to fill out the lineups of two. It made sense to me, then, to do a kind of fantasy draft with talent taken directly from the existing pool and line them up on two fictional stations as I saw fit. If millions of people can pretend to be GMs, why can't I pretend to be a station manager?
First, The Talent (in alphabetical order)
Adam Clanton (recently with 1560, so he stays) Fred Davis (610) Fred Faour (97.5) John Granato (1560) John Harris (1560) AJ Hoffman (97.5) Josh Innes (610) Matt Jackson (790) N.D. Kalu (790) Greg Koch (790) John Lopez (610) Rich Lord (610) Mike Meltser (610) Charlie Pallilo (790) Seth Payne (610) Sean Pendergast (1560) Jerome Solomon (97.5) Dave Tepper (97.5) Matt Thomas (790) Barry Warner (610) John Wessling (like Clanton, was with 1560 until Monday) Adam Wexler (790) Nick Wright (610) Lance Zierlein (790)
Next, the Time Slots
I'm assuming two separate stations with lineups that look like this:
6 a.m. - 10 a.m. (morning drive) 10 a.m. - noon (mid-morning) noon - 3 p.m. (midday) 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. (afternoon drive) 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. (night shift)
Additionally, one set each of weekend crews that can work a floating schedule based on games and keep local talk on the air.
This lineup gives maximum coverage and allows certain shows -- mid-morning, for example -- to be shorter and more focused, similar to what Koch and Kalu do currently. And, surprisingly, if we assume two hosts per show, we need 24 total people, and the list of regular on-air talent listed above, as luck would have it, is exactly 24. So no one gets left out, just like in Little League.
6 a.m. - 10 a.m.
Right or wrong, people like to wake up in the morning to the kind of radio that spawned shock jocks and crazy, loud on-air antics. While sports radio might require a slightly toned-down version, it does need big personalities, and I give it to them.
Josh Innes & John Granato I was very tempted to put Zierlein and Granato back together. They were one of the most successful morning-show pairings in sports radio. But it's better to move forward and, frankly, this duo might be even better. I have been critical of Innes in the past, but he has talent and a lot of loyal listeners (as evidenced by his strong afternoon ratings), something that is not easy to come by. His personality seems perfectly matched to the morning drive time, and who better to pair him with than a morning-show veteran and straight man in Granato? I could see these two really stirring it up.
Sean Pendergast & Rich Lord This feels like an inspired pairing. Pendergast is talented, smart and in tune with social media. Lord is a pro still at the top of his game after years in the business, with a wealth of knowledge particularly in baseball and football making their knowledge complementary -- especially with Pendergast's college and basketball understanding. Neither is unafraid to take on more controversial topics, and I have a feeling they would agree on a lot. Plus, they both have the sort of casual, guy-at-a-bar demeanor that seems extremely well suited for co-hosts.
10 a.m. - noon
Since football in Texas is like religion, why not two hours entirely focused on it every day of the year? But if it's going to happen, better make sure we have hosts with real-world knowledge.
Greg Koch & N.D. Kalu One of a few on-air pairings I kept together, Koch and Kalu are perfect for this two-hour morning slot. They rarely talk about anything but football, which is what to expect from two former NFL players, but the discussion is often insightful and the Uncle Greg segments are always worth a listen, either live or on the podcast. This is an ideal slot for this type of team.
Jerome Solomon & Seth Payne Payne recently joined Mike Meltser, replacing Brad Davies, and while he still has a lot to learn about radio, like Koch and Kalu he provides a firsthand accounting of how things really are in the NFL. With a veteran columnist like Solomon to help balance out the discussion, this could make a good, football-focused show.
Noon - 3 p.m.
Traditionally, the midday time slot is a solo spot. Ratings tend to be lower for local shows and hosts have to carry segments with odd or nonexistent callers. To me, this is the spot for hosts who can hold their own with or without having to answer phones.
Matt Thomas & Mike Meltser Honestly, Thomas has become one of my favorite listens during the day. Part of that may be due to the fact that we are about the same age and have pretty much all the same pop-culture references, but it's also that he is so good at keeping things rolling at a time of day that can fall into lulls. Meltser and his whole hyper-logical, "fair" approach would do well with Thomas and current show producer Ross Villarreal, who acts as a de facto co-host with Thomas now and would still be a valuable asset. In a way, this would just be an expansion of what Thomas does, but with a young, balanced voice in Meltser.
Nick Wright & John Harris Next to Pendergast and Lord, this might be the pairing I most want to hear created. Harris is a brilliant sports mind with a bombastic approach that feels like a perfect fit with Wright's edgy commentary. There would be a ton of fireworks with this duo, but it would be damn entertaining and has the potential to be the most informative show of the day. The more I think about it, the more I'd like to hear it. Make it happen, radio gods!
3 p.m. - 7 p.m.
To me, the afternoon drive is all about sports. It is often the lead-in show for Astros and Rockets games (sometimes the postgame in the case of the 'Stros), and it is when most of the big news stories break. Better arm this time slot with guys who can cover it well.
Charlie Pallilo & Lance Zierlein I came very close to taking a nostalgic route with this and putting Lord back with his old cohort, Pallilo, just as I considered putting Zierlein back with Granato, but listening to these two together over the last few months has convinced me they have good chemistry, and it continues to grow. I really want to hear them move forward as Zierlein pushes Pallilo into revealing more about himself and Pallilo mines Zierlein's vast reservoir of knowledge, particularly about football.
Matt Jackson & Adam Wexler Another pair of guys I'm keeping together, Jackson and Wexler are best buds and it shows on air. I have liked listening to them since they were substantially younger and covering the wee morning hours and/or the night shift. They are great together and should remain there. They also have the kind of straight sports knowledge that would go great in the afternoon.
7 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Night programming needs to be funny, irreverent and able to handle some of the weirder callers of the day. In recent years, it has been a training ground for rookies and a spot to stash guys who maybe aren't quite good enough for prime time. That needs to end with hosts who can make it entertaining.
Adam Clanton & John Wessling Honestly, I can't imagine a better pairing for nights than these two. Both are funny and both have the kind of dominant personalities that would tame even the strangest night caller. Putting them in a night slot would allow them even more freedom than they had before they were canned at 1560. This is perhaps as close as you could get to the late-night antics of former 1560 program director Chance McLain and creative director Frank Bullington and their Blue Light Cemetery show.
Fred Faour & AJ Hoffman I like these two together and I think they would do well after hours if for no other reason than their expansive knowledge of sports betting. It gives them an angle that seems perfectly suited for after dark. Their strong personalities would also keep callers in check.
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In case you think I've relegated people to the weekend because I don't like them, think again. Having a strong four hours on the weekend to keep local topics moving along, if done right, would be great for local radio.
John Lopez & Dave Tepper With all due respect to Tepper, this spot is all about Lopez. I'll admit that I have had a tough time with his general approach to mornings, but I could see it working perfectly on a weekend slot. The often sleepy, lazy weekend afternoons could use his attitude to shake things up, and Tepper provides a good, solid radio voice to balance it out.
Barry Warner & Fred Davis I actually think this pairing has been fairly good for 610 at night. Davis helps to keep the folksier Warner from straying too far into nostalgia, and the two could be an excellent team on the weekend. This is also the ideal time for some of the old-timer guests Warner can get -- many of whom you don't hear anywhere else. The weekend would be the perfect speed for these two.