The south has always been known as a region filled with passionate people. People who put every ounce of their heart and soul into the things that they do, whether it be their job, their education, or their hobbies.
With that being said, the argument could be made that the folks in the South are most passionate about their sports. From Tobacco Road to SEC football, nothing boils the blood of southerners like an old fashioned rivalry.
Being one of the most rapidly growing cities in the South, Charlotte, North Carolina has become a Mecca for sports fans from all around the region. Many of the people living in Charlotte were born and raised elsewhere and have devoted their loyalty to teams from outside of the city.
With such a melting pot of different fan bases, there had to be something done to bring them all together to duke it out for sports supremacy. That something has come in the form of a sports talk-radio show, and since 1997, Mark Packer (a.k.a. The Packman) has been the glue for southern sports with his afternoon show ‘Primetime with the Packman’.
Primetime can be heard almost anywhere in North and South Carolina, and is the southern sports fan’s place to be from 3-7pm. With a wide variety of topics and guest hosts, as well as a cast of unique characters on the show’s regular panel, it’s easy to see why Primetime has been going strong for almost 12 years.
Packer heads up a cast that includes Chicago-area sports nut “The Hitman” and the notorious QCB, best known for his loyalty to the Dallas Cowboys and his over-the-top personality.
One of Primetime’s most unique qualities is the number of sports writers, commentators, coaches, and players—both current and past—that sit in with Packman as co-hosts of the show.
Former NBA star Mike Gminski, former NFL player Corey Miller, broadcaster John Kilgo, and local newspaper writers C. Jemal Horton, Richard Walker, and Steve Reed are just a few of Packman’s regular guests.
These co-hosts provide a fresh view on the sports world day in and day out, and give callers a chance to voice their opinions and perhaps learn a thing or two from people who have been in the business and have played the games.
There are a number of various gimmicks that Primetime puts on daily. At the beginning of each show, Jessica Simpson—pop music star and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s love interest—poses the question: “What’s the streak up to now, Packman?” to which a voice answers with the number of days it has been since the Cowboys have won a playoff game.
Perhaps the most popular is the ‘Diamonds Direct Whiner Line.’ The Whiner Line is a voice mailbox where fans can leave a message griping about whatever is bothering them in the sports world. Fans take the opportunity to brag, belittle, and besiege with the best clips being played on air at two different times in the show.
Fans have been known to crucify guest hosts and callers alike for grammar errors or unpopular views, and to brag about their respective teams when things are looking up. At 5:04pm, a brief acknowledgement to ’56 to 6’ is played, poking fun at QCB’s South Carolina Gamecocks, who took a 56-6 drubbing at the hands of the Florida Gators this past season after Q guaranteed a victory.
Packer takes the show on the road with the Sundrop Southern Fried Football Tour. Each Saturday during college football season, Packer and his crew pick a different campus to set up shop and experience the tailgating and other rituals that are unique to each location before heading into the stadium to see the game. They report back on Monday with stories and memories about the weekend.
One of the most outstanding accomplishments of Packer’s radio career has been the number of world famous guests he has had on the show. The Technocom Guest Line serves as the connection between Packer and his distinguished guests.
To date, household names such as former President Jimmy Carter, Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler, commentator Jim Nantz, professional wrestler Ric Flair, and former presidential candidate John McCain, to name just a few, have graced the airwaves with Packman.
“There are too many names to list as my favorite guests,” Packer says, “I have been so fortunate to be able to interview so many great people from sports to entertainment figures. One of these days, when I quit or move on to another gig, I'll spend some time on listing them. But it is amazing how many cool people you get to meet and interact with as a talk show host.”
When asked who his one all-time guest would be, from any generation, Packer reverted back to old school baseball. “I'd love to have on Jackie Robinson. He was one of the single most influential people in the history of sports. I would have loved to pick his brain about the entire process that he endured and his influence on all of sports.”
Packer says that his favorite part of the job is getting the chance to interact with the fans. The level of passion rides on the current state of affairs inside one of the many teams that fans around Charlotte have pledged their allegiance to.
“In this business every day is a different day, a different show,” says Packer. “It's always fun to talk with the fans when their respective team is winning big or losing big. That’s when the passion emerges. The worst thing in this business is when a team goes .500.”
That was evident in the 2008 Carolina Panthers season, which had bits of turbulence during the year, but wound up seeing the team go 12-4 before exiting the playoffs in embarrassing fashion. “The team has a really good year, undefeated at home, the fans were terrific, and then the team lays an egg in the playoffs. The fans are still upset, and I think that's a good thing, because they care.”
If you’re ever in the Charlotte area, tune in to WFNZ 610 AM from 3-7pm to catch Primetime and it will be easy to see why Jim Nantz calls it “the best sports talk show in the country.” For a guy who never intended to get into the sports radio industry, Packer has done an outstanding job at creating and maintaining a tradition for sports fans all over the Carolinas and throughout the south.