Watt-Lanta: Who's Who in the ATL Sports Talk Radio War

Jack BenderCorrespondent IJuly 28, 2009

KISSIMMEE, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Pitching coach Leo Mazzone of the Atlanta Braves poses for a picture during Media Day at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex on February 27, 2004 in Kissimmee, Florida. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

There is a low-intensity conflict being waged between the two local sports talk radio stations in the city of Atlanta.  Sports fans are the beneficiaries.  Competition leads to improvement.

790 the Zone is the upstart, hip David to the ESPN-backed 680 the Fan’s Goliath.  Football season in the South is a war and these two will be skirmishing all season long.

790 is killing 680 with their web site, but 680 has the power in more ways than one.  680 just scored the Atlanta Braves for next season. 

That is very big, but the addition of the Florida Gators on the radio definitely will make some listeners turn the up the radio dial. 

In no particular order, here is my breakdown of the local on-air sports talk radio personalities (one note: I consider the 2 Live Stews national radio personalities):

Nick Cellini: You almost listen these days wanting Cellini to go off the reservation a little bit.  I like his crazier radio persona better than on his television show.  He gives solid insight on television, but the juicier private life stuff has calmed a bit on the radio. 

Celini brings the energy every morning, but the hatred of Brett Favre has gone a little overboard.

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He is the best person on this list at carrying the radio show when the boss (Steak) is out.  When just Cellini and Dimino are on, Mayhem in the AM the show does not lose a beat.

Chris Dimino: I call Dimino the ‘voice of reason’ in the Mayhem and the AM team.  He actually is a journalist that could cover a sport.  Dimino can show up in the locker room or dugout and hold his own.   

Dimino actually has gravitas.  He respects the game of baseball and the history of sports.  I could not agree more with his opinion this week on the Steroid question.

Dimino is probably the only guy on this list that I would want doing a serious interview with a sports legend.

Steak Shapiro: It is hard for me to think about Steak without thinking about the picture Deadspin ran in their articles earlier this year detailing the Steak versus John Rocker encounter.  Hilarious.

He is great at arguing his point.  Great radio when Steak stirs up Atlanta over the Mike Vick and Danny Heatley comparisons.  I need more gambling and wagering stories.   

Yeah, oh by the way I miss Cacie Johnson’s presence on Mayhem and the AM.  This girl was a solid addition to the morning broadcast.  The voice is sexy.  She sounds hot on the radio which brings a flirty element to the show. 

Mayhem needs that younger voice, because lets face it, these guys are all white dudes over 40 with kids.  Sounds like she needs to drop the boyfriend, though.

Brandon Adams and Jeff Woolverton: I have never listened to their show, so I cannot really comment on it.  Some of the Adams stuff from the 790 the Zone Frat House earlier this year was classic.  I usually listen to Colin Cowherd on ESPN.

Mike Bell: For me, Bell is the best host for a radio show.  He can do sports, but I think he could host a show on politics or whatever. 

Actual sports talk is not his forte, but the entertainment value is sky high.  You pretty much can team him with anyone and make a show work.  Bell is not afraid to say what he feels and make people angry.  No fear. 

I like the contrast between the cop's son aspect of his background and the willingness to party like a rock star...the thin blue line meets the Cheetah line dance. 

I would party with this guy one weekend at the Beau Rivage Casino in Mississippi just to see if I could survive.  You could put just about anyone with Bell and make a good show...

David Pollack: What can I say about Pollack?  Nothing much.  I respect his football career a ton and he grows on me a little everyday, but he needs to come up with some more original thoughts on sports topics.  He probably will be much better this football season than last.

I like the contrast between Pollack’s “ahh shucks” naivety and Bell’s over the top party persona, but to make this show work you almost need a sports fanatic opposite Bell.  Pollack does not have the chops to argue with Bell…yet.

Buck Belue: The voice is smooth and golden.  Belue reminds me of an old-timer sitting around talking about the high school football team.  I would listen to Buck talk about sports in the local diner on a Saturday morning over coffee.  He is one guy on this list that played athletics at a high level. 

I am surprised that Georgia did not put him on its college football broadcast.  His rant this year about the Braves was the essence of what sports talk radio is all about.

He has sarcasm, wit, and interesting takes on sports and life.  Belue can break down the specifics of actually playing the game, a rare commodity in this town.

Jon Kincaid: When Kincaid and Buck Belue are working together, Kincaid is one of the best in the city.  He takes on all comers and backs up his opinions.

I rarely agree with the guy politically, but he is not an apologist for these athletes and their sometime bad behaviors.  Belue and Kincaid are a great team. 

Kincaid is fine by himself and he can carry the show, but his inability to see other sides to an issue hurts him when Belue is not in the booth.

When he is on Sunday mornings, he needs to bring a lighter, perspective with some better analogies and more interesting points of view.

Chuck Oliver: There is no one in Atlanta that can give you more information on college football and obscure college football teams.  If I wanted to wager on some random college football game, I would take advice from Oliver. 

He knows players, does his homework, and works on making sure he knows the sports information. 

Beyond football, not really sure he even cares.  That is okay because football is king in the South.  Chuck is a ham-and-egger who has carved out a great niche for himself in the sports business.  I am jealous.

Matt Chernoff: Chuck and Chernoff is a great show.  I listen to portions of the show every day.  Chernoff is great at playing off Oliver and nailing him during the show.

Across the broad spectrum of Atlanta sports, Chernoff is not afraid to bring strong opinions and back them up. 

He is one of the few guys in this town that I listen to when he talks about the NBA.  Lately, when Oliver has been out and not on the show, Chernoff is not as good.  The solo show does not work as well.

Christopher Rude: This is guy is rock solid on this morning show.  He has perspective on issues, because he does not sound like the sports fan type.

Rude brings a comedic and fun element to a show that is pretty conservative. He chats up the weather girls. 

He asks some great questions during interviews as well.  You might describe him as young at heart and a little rock and roll.  If you put me in the booth with him and Leo Mazzone, I would have that show rolling.  Leo might kill me, but it might be a great show.

Leo Mazzone: It is criminal that Leo Mazzone does not have a job in Major League Baseball.  Listen up, coaching matters.  I don’t care if you have great starters.  Every pitcher has to be managed and there are 12 on every roster.

That is half the players on the team!  Every day that Leo does not work in the Majors is a day that some team is losing a quality pitching coach. 

On the radio, Leo gets better almost everyday.  The laugh is infectious and his self-deprecating demeanor is perfect for this town. 

Rude does a good job of getting him loosey-goosey.  Leo is the ultimate apologist for the pro athlete and that is where he loses me sometimes. 

I think he knows he has to walk a careful line, because he wants to get back into the Major Leagues at some point.  He has great stories from the minors and insight into some of Atlanta’s favorite sons of the Braves.

Perry Laurentino: I do not know any of these people, but Perry strikes me as “Jon Kincaid Lite”.  He has the conservative leanings, but not the teeth of a Kincaid.  He is serviceable on the radio, but he does not inspire me to call in or e-mail the show. 

I respect his deference to Leo in real life, but not on the radio.  He does not really tell any great sports stories or seem to go to any games. 

Disclaimer:  I wrote a Fantasy Football column for Score Atlanta last year and want to again this year.  They are affiliated with 790 the Zone.  I do not know any of these people and I have a job where I get the chance to listen to the radio on the Internet.


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