Having lived in Cleveland before college and in Pittsburgh during and after college, I’ve been able to gain a unique familiarity with both sports media markets.
Now that I sit at a desk all day, and thanks to the wonders of streaming audio on the internet, I’m able to easily pick and choose where I get my sports talk radio.
If you’ve read my bio or any of my posts, you know I’m a diehard Cleveland Browns and Indians fan. But you might not be aware that I am also a huge Pittsburgh Penguins fan as well.
And more than anything else, I’m just looking for engaging, entertaining sports talk to get me through my day, regardless of which teams are the topic of conversation.
Pittsburgh and Cleveland have always been famous rivals on the gridiron, but now it’s time to see who owns the airwaves.
Let's take a look at the ESPN Radio affiliates for each city. For Cleveland, it's ESPN 850 AM(www.espncleveland.com) and for Pittsburgh, it's ESPN 1250 AM ( http://sports.espn.go.com/stations/espnradio1250/). There are other minor players in the radio market of each city, but neither can compare to the Goliath status that these two stations enjoy.
The Really Big Show with Tony Rizzo and Aaron Goldhammer
(10 am – Noon)
When the show first began several years ago, Tony Rizzo gave listeners an energetic morning show that seemed to bind a brotherhood of Cleveland sports fans with the optimism that they cling to so dearly.
When Rizzo proclaimed 2007 as C-Town’s “Season of Dreams” (to which the Browns followed with a thrilling 10-6 campaign), the city was in a frenzy and the show reflected it immensely each morning.
Even as inevitable Cleveland disappointment followed with the Browns, Cavs, and Indians, Rizzo continued to offer passionate opinions. Though you might not have agreed with him, you could respect his well-thought argument.
Enter resident villain Aaron Goldhammer, self-dubbed “Ass PD,” (Assistant Program Director) who has become the most-hated personality in Cleveland radio.
Goldhammer is always quick to take a cheap shot at the Browns, Buckeyes, and Indians without offering suggestions on how the teams can be better.
Rather, he employs a technique that endears him to an obnoxious kid who is not really as interested in sports as he is trying to make a lame joke.
“The Hammer” whines about the teams, states the obvious, and diverts the conversation completely away from sports.
Between constantly plugging sponsors, talking about Hammer's social life, and playing teenage bumper music just to get a reaction, “The Really Big Show” has developed into a two-hour comedy routine with a dash of sports talk.
Stan & Guy & Chris
(10 am – Noon w/ online chat Noon – 1 pm)
Stan Savran and Guy Junker formed a legendary sports duo long before I arrived in Pittsburgh. After a brief stint apart while each tried to carry their own show, they reunited once again and have continued to offer fair, insightful commentary on Pittsburgh sports. If you live in Pittsburgh or follow its teams, you know Stan and Guy.
Stan and Guy deliver a professional charisma that engages listeners with thought-provoking dialogue that objectively analyzes all of the Steel City teams as well as Penn State.
The guys also seem to have a firm grasp on the pulse of the fan, developing great hypothetical discussions on both local and national topics.
Unfortunately, the recent addition of Chris Mack was disappointing, as he typically portrays a supremely over-confident fan. To the credit of Stan and Guy, Mack’s participation is limited, almost as if to say, “Um, Chris, the adults are talking here.”
WINNER: Stan & Guy & Chris
(3 pm – 6 pm)
Though Reghi has been on the Cleveland sports scene for decades, he has only owned the coveted afternoon-drive time slot for the last few months. Nevertheless, Reghi implores his audience to “bring it strong,” and that is exactly what he does each day.
The foundation of Reghi’s common-sense analysis of Cleveland sports is undoubtedly the wisdom and experience that he has gained over the years. Reghi offers intelligent opinions and is never afraid to take a side and be critical when it is appropriate.
Even so, Reghi is tolerant and respectful of listeners who do not agree with him, as long as they can match his reasoning and logic.
Reghi’s charismatic style endears him to his audience, and there’s rarely a show where he isn’t complimented for his work as the Cavs’ play-by-play voice in years past. It is clear that his audience respects him tremendously.
Additionally, Reghi is also a supremely skilled interviewer. His tremendous knowledge and preparation shines through even when talking to sports personalities outside of Cleveland.
The Drive with Paulsen, Logan & Crow
(2 pm – 6 pm)
With Scott Paulsen typically taking the lead, this show does a great job of giving equal attention to the Steelers, Penguins, and even the Pirates. Paulsen and sidekick Eddy Crow put forth fan-centric opinions that are rooted in years of following Pittsburgh’s teams.
While they are certainly not the most objective commentators that Pittsburgh has to offer, their style makes them extremely likeable and relatable.
Former Steelers defensive back Mike Logan rounds out the trio by bringing the ever-popular “former athlete” viewpoint.
While Logan sometimes seems takes a backseat to his more seasoned counterparts, Paulsen and Crow frequently bring him into the mix by drawing on his unique experiences and perspectives.
To his credit, Logan appears more comfortable behind the microphone each day.
But without question, it’s the comedy aspect of The Drive that makes it so appealing. Eddy Crow is the most sardonic person I have ever heard on radio. Every once in awhile, it gets annoying, but generally, it’s just pretty darn funny.
Meanwhile, Paulsen’s comedic talents are frequently on display with hilarious sketches like “Spit, Choke and Puke” and songs such as “Flyers Scum,” “The Wreck of the Plaxico Burress,” and “Cincinnati S.U.C.K.S.”
WINNER: Michael Reghi
In the Zone with Kenny Roda
(6 pm – 9 pm)
Kenny is like a half-brother to me. Not in a “family tree” sense, but rather a fervent Buckeyes fan (like me) and equally ardent Steelers supporter (definitely not like me).
Who better than to objectively analyze the Browns than a Steelers fan? Kenny is excellent at offering strong opinions about all the teams that can be tough for a Cleveland fan to hear but have an air of truth and reality.
Conversely, Roda can sometimes let his love for the Indians, Cavs, and Buckeyes cloud his objectivity, but this seems to gain him popularity with his audience.
“The Roadman” is also famous for his hilarious impressions of various sports personalities and entertaining interviews which keep the show lively and engaging.
(6 pm – 8 pm)
This must be for people who need something to make them feel better about their otherwise dull lives. We get it, we get it…the Steelers won the Super Bowl. But in the six months outside of football season, there are many other sports and teams to follow.
Host Ken Laird is an unabashed Steeler apologist, and rarely has a critical word for the team he covers.
While off-season football conversation about what the team needs to improve can generate some great bar-room arguments, Laird takes the time to congratulate the defending Super Bowl champs and fails to address legitimate issues.
Sorry folks, but if you need to listen to Steelers talk all year long, you need to get a life.
WINNER: “In the Zone with Kenny Roda”
Well, that's it, folks. Cleveland narrowly edges out Pittsburgh, 2-1.
I encourage you to check out all of these shows and let me know your thoughts. Whether you root for Cleveland's teams or Pittsburgh's teams, an educated sports fan is knowledgeable of the goings-on outside of the confines of their own locality.
Now if only the Browns could narrowly edge out the Steelers once in awhile...