Battle for Chicago Airwaves Rages On

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Battle for Chicago Airwaves Rages On
(Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

I have lived in the Chicagoland area my whole life. 

From Harry Caray to Jim Durham, I have heard all the announcers for each team, from the Bears to the White Sox.  Some guys were homers and would blindly support their teams, while other would give fans a critical viewpoint of the team's performance. 

Either way, most fans only cared that the people who were on the air at least cared about the product one way or another.  And for most of my childhood, the only time to hear about the games was either watching the games or seeing the evening news for highlights. 

That was until 1992.

Chet Coppock is a Chicago legend. 

In an interview in the October 1992 edition of the Chicago Tribune, Coppock stated, "We have an opportunity to take all of our energies as fans and put it over the radio waves." 

And sure enough, WSCR the SCORE came into existence.  Essentially, the concept was a 12 hour radio station that simply had fans call into specified programs and discuss whatever the hot topic was in Chicago sports. 

The most popular show of this time was the Monsters of the Midday, featuring former Chicago Bear and longtime TV reporter Dan Jiggetts and a former hot dog vendor turned radio personality, Mike North. 

The mix of good sports information with entertainment and humor would become the staple for all sports radio to come.

Many station changes later, and finally achieving 24 hour status, the SCORE remains the top rated sports radio station in Chicago.  Of course now, ESPN has become a national powerhouse for sports radio as they cover more of a national scope for sports instead of just local teams. 

So, as time has gone along, the lineups have changed for each show, but it seems both stations have settled on a set lineup for their daily programming.  I think the best way to break down the differences in each programming is to simply break down each station's lineup.

 

SCORE (WSCR 670)

6:00-10:00 AM   Mully and Hanley

Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley are both long time reporters for the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper.  Mulligan has covered the Bears while Hanley has been the Bulls' beat reporter for over a decade. 

So, on their show, they focus more on the reporter's point of view and give their years of expertise dealing with the athletes and coaches and how they react to certain situations. 

Mulligan tends to play the fool, meaning he will play dumb for the purpose of entertaining the fans.  This sometimes can be annoying, but Mulligan has managed to find a happy medium between the clown and the reporter. 

Hanley is more the straight man and just throws in clever quips here and there.  Mully and Hanley seem to actually like one another, and while that is not critical, it does help them have a smooth flow to their show, thus why I think it works.

 

10:00 AM-Noon  Hamp and Holmes

Lawrence Holmes has been on the SCORE for years without a partner, but when the 10:00 slot opened up, they tried him at first on his own.  While he was entertaining, some of his references were very contemporary and would not meet up with the older audience that likely were listening at this time. 

So, WSCR decided to pair him up with Dan Hampton, the multiple time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl winning defensive end/tackle for the Chicago Bears. 

Rather than focus on facts, this show seems to focus more on emotion from Hampton and a cool, smooth approach from Holmes.  I just don't think there is chemistry between the two.  Hampton is a little too old school in his thinking. 

A great example of this was when Bobby Jenks threw behind the Texas Rangers hitter a few weeks ago.  Not only did Hampton not have a problem with this in a one run game in the ninth, he actually CHASTISED Jenks for not hitting him. 

I understand why they gave Holmes a co-host, but he needs the right co-host, and I don't think the Danimal is it.

 

Noon-2:00 PM  The Murph Show

I have talked to many of my friends about this show, and it really is this simple: You either love him or you hate him. 

If you love him and his shtick, you will listen every day.  If you don't, you change to the competitor's station for two hours.  Bottom line is Mike Murphy's claim to fame is he was one of the original Bleacher Bums at Wrigley Field.  As a fellow Cubs' fan, this makes no difference to me. 

From the "Andy the Clown" horns to the "Whooo Doogie" sound bytes, Murph's show is just not good listening.  Even though he lets fans say pretty much whatever they want, his show is uncontrollable and fans sometimes make stupid points for many minutes without interruption or clarification from the host. 

I do not like know-it-all types, but just accepting every fan point as fact is just not good listening to the educated fan.

 

2:00-6:00 PM  Boers and Bernstein

This is both the best and worst show in Chicago sports radio. 

It is also the longest running at over 10 years.  Dan Bernstein and Terry Boers are both products of the journalistic side of sports (Bernstein through TV and radio and Boers through the Chicago Sun Times as a beat reporter).  However, they don't seem to like sports, and I will elaborate on that.

First, B&B are the exact opposite of the Murph show.  They NEVER let a caller make a stupid point without them bashing it.  However, the negative is they never let a good point through either. 

One day, there was a discussion on fighting in the NHL.  A caller phoned in and stated, "I don't like the fighting much either Danny, but this is a product of their sport, and I don't think the sport can tell guys who have done this for 20 plus years to change their thought process." 

Bernstein stated, "They can and it's lazy they don't."

These exchanges are very typical.  Frankly, I'll admit it: I disagree with about 90 percent of what B&B think on sports.  I am not a neanderthal, but I do think sports is escapism from reality, if for a few hours. 

I don't think B&B trying to tell everyone it's not life really resonates with most Chicago fans.  This is not why this show has lasted so long.

The B&B show has lasted as long as it has for two main reasons: 1) B&B are very funny and have tremendous comedic timing together and 2) Even if people hate them, people still tune in to hear what they hate. 

This is the main difference between Murph's show and B&B...people will still listen to B&B even if they don't like them.

 

ESPN (WMVP 1000)

5:00-9:00 AM  Mike & Mike

Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic are polar opposites.  Golic is a neanderthal former football player from Notre Dame, while Greenberg (or Greeny) is the clean cut journalist from Northwestern.  Mike & Mike are usually heads up against Mully and Hanley at this time, and frankly...it's not been much of a contest. 

Mike & Mike provide a national spectrum for the Chicago audience, which is certainly different from the SCORE.  However, Mike Greenberg is Dan Bernstein without the comic value.  Golic is knowledgable and has good insight from a former athlete. 

In fact, Golic is what I wish Hampton would be: an old school player with a new school viewpoint.  However, since Greenberg is so annoying, I just cannot listen to this show.

 

9:00 AM-1:00 PM  Waddle and Silvy

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, the people of Chicago voted this as the best show in Chicago.  Tom Waddle is a former Chicago Bear wide receiver and current NFL TV contributor.  Steve Silverman is a longtime host on ESPN, and they were just looking for the right partner for him. 

These guys are tremendous, and they deserve their ranking. 

Waddle is an old school guy, but he definitely is not a neanderthal.  Waddle was well trained in Communications during his time at Boston College, and he is a thinking man's fan without sounding pretentious. 

Meanwhile, Silverman plays the nerdy guy who follows around the cool kid Waddle.  This is what makes the show work so great.  Silvy knows he doesn't have Waddle's knowledge, but he doesn't claim to.  Silvy plays the part of a fan very well, and that's why this show is the best: the mixture of neanderthal fandom with good sports information.

 

1:00-2:00 PM   Tirico and Van Pelt

Well, let me be the first to say it: I don't like Mike Tirico. 

I don't like him on US Open coverage, NBA coverage, when he used to do Sports Center, and certainly now with Van Pelt.  However, I do like Scott Van Pelt.  He is funny, his work on the Golf Channel was outstanding, and he likes to play the idiot while being extremely smart about sports.  Since this is only an hour show, I won't say much more about the show than that.

 

2:00-7:00 PM   Carmen, Jurko and Harry (with post-game)

I'll start off by simply telling you who these guys are. 

Carmen DeFalco is a multi-year fill in host on ESPN radio, but just recently has shown he could handle full-time air time.  John Jurkovic is a former pro football player (most well known as a Green Bay Packer) who is the neanderthal of the program.  Finally, there's Harry Teinowitz, a stand-up comedian with a love for all sports Chicago.

To start, when this show began Dan McNeil was the co-host instead of Carmen.  For those unfamiliar, Dan McNeil and Terry Boers had an afternoon show together for six years.  McNeil was a control freak and wanted much more money to stay on at the SCORE.  The SCORE didn't want him with the high price tag, so ESPN snatched him up.

In the end, McNeil caused ESPN the same headaches, constantly getting suspended for getting in fights with his fellow hosts and having a bad attitude.  Needless to say, Carmen eased a lot of tension on that show, particularly between Jurko and McNeil. 

It seems to have helped them in the ratings also.

I like DeFalco.  He has an Italian toughness mixed with a smoothness and cool to handle the big bad football player.  Jurko doesn't mind being the butt of the jokes, provided he gets to show off his knowledge once in a while. 

Seriously, Carmen and Jurko are wonderful.

My issue is Harry Teinowitz.  First off, any knowledge Harry has came from some baseball card or random encyclopedia.  It seems he is more interested in telling us what he knows than getting into the ebb and flow of the topic. 

Also, HE'S NOT FUNNY!!! 

I cannot believe he is a stand-up comic.  If Harry would like to take a long trip to the middle of nowhere one way, I'd gladly see him off.

So, while both stations clearly have other people working shows (ESPN has Jonathan Hood, Bruce Levine while the SCORE has Zach Zaidman, Hub Arkush, and Brian Paruch), their ratings depend on the weekday lineups. 

While I find weaknesses and strengths in both stations, I think the SCORE appeals more to the local fan and ESPN is more the national station.  And since most fans are more worried about the local teams, the SCORE will continue to get more ratings.

 

 

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