Friday, August 1, 2014

Local Denver sports talk radio is dropping the ball

Normally, we at Colorado Sports Guys will leave the commentary of media to people who are better at it than we are. Dusty Saunders and the folks at South Stands Denver do a fine job of that as is.

This is the exception.

Les Shapiro has been and very much is a good friend to the CSG podcast. We were disappointed to find out that 102.3 ESPN Denver let he and Charles Johnson go ... and apparently former Broncos center Tom Nalen declined his new contract with the station. All this happened over the course of one afternoon.

It was an interesting, and very abrupt, change at the station. Aside from our personal disappointment that a good friend was let go (he will be fine and land on his feet, thank you) it leads us to question what's going on over there. ESPN Denver's curious decision to replace an all-around Denver sports talk show (CJ & Les) with a host (Cecil Lammey, NFL guru) who has admitted on radio that he knows pretty much only football, his expertise is football, and is unabashedly ignorant of other sports was ... odd.

Why?

While it's easy to pander to Broncos fans in this town, because it's big business, condensing your local talent down to two weekday hosts (Lammey 1-3pm, Nate Kreckman 3-6pm) with one show that is all NFL all the time kind of limits your appeal, regardless of how many Broncos fans there are in Denver. It's a strange decision from a station that is becoming increasingly ESPN programing oriented.

If you were going to let Shapiro and Johnson go, why not bring in a host(s) who will talk about all Colorado sports? Why get rid of two hosts, while alienating a significant portion of your listening audience at the same time? It doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. If you make the change, make it for the best interest of every team in the Denver sports landscape.

This points to a larger problem in Denver sports talk radio, it's all Broncos, Broncos, Broncos. It has become an epidemic to the point where local teams will take advantage of the media's obsession with the Broncos to make questionable moves or take the heat off themselves. The Colorado Rockies are a team that uses this blind spot in Denver media coverage to its fullest extent. The Rockies wait for Broncos camp to start and suddenly the media forgets the team exists and BINGO, incentive to change is gone.

And the cycle repeats itself over-and-over.

By not replacing CJ & Les with an all-around sports talk show, 102.3 ESPN has contributed to the problem that has beset this city for so many years. Sports radio has pandered to the vocal aspects of football coverage and, in doing so, has tacitly allowed teams to get away with metaphorical murder. The Rockies being the most egregious example. All the while, not accepting blame for the very thing they allow to happen.

There are few shows or hosts in Denver that cover all the local franchises. Denver Sports Nation, featuring Adam Kinney, Josh Dover, and Dario Correa, (Mile High Sports 8-10pm weeknights) does a fantastic job of getting out and covering all the major sports teams in town. So do our good friends Sandy Clough, Scott Hastings, and our friend Raj Sharon, a producer at 102.3, does a great job covering the Nuggets (also a shout out to our friend Mario Vetanze from MHS and Ryan Edwards and Shawn Drotar of the Fan Late Night). They, currently, are an exception to the rule ... the Broncos dominate and run over all mainstream media outlets and it has resulted in perfunctory, mealy mouthed coverage of the three other major sports.

The interesting thing is this is in no way the fault of the Broncos, who are just doing what they do. This is the fault of program directors, station owners, paper publishers and editors who chase the lowest common denominator rather than actually trying for something more broadly appealing.

Thank goodness for blogs and podcasts. There are many folks around the city that will give you great coverage of the teams that get ignored in Denver. CSG tends to be Nuggets centric because Nate Timmons and myself write for the preeminent Nuggets blog Denver Stiffs. Yet there are podcasts and blogs that cover the Rockies, Colorado Avalanche and even the Broncos in phenomenal detail. It's all out there folks, just in time to broaden your horizons.

Regardless of how you felt about Shapiro the radio host, he is out there covering the Broncos, Rockies, Avalanche, and Nuggets. He goes to the games, has great relationships with many players, coaches and executives. We need more people like that in the Denver radio talk show format. Not ones that can only see the pigskin.

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