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Rodgers Wakes Up L.A Sports Fans

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By the time 4:30 in the morning rolls around, LA Live morphs into LA Lifeless.

Travis Rodgers now has visual confirmation.

“There’s not a soul around — except maybe some guy is cleaning, buffing, scooping,” the new KSPN-AM (710) early morning weekday drive co-host admitted about the otherwise neon-lit, fan-flash favorite gathering area across the street from Staples Center.

“I did see someone early one morning in the Starbucks, and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I can hit that on the way up the elevator.’ Nope. It’s not open until 5.”

When you beat the opening of a Starbucks to work — which is when Rodgers and partner Kelvin Washington must do to be in the ESPN Radio studios in the offices right next door — you’re officially on the zombie shift.

The intent behind raising the shade on an L.A.-based sports-talk station before dawn is simple: Find another entry point on a more intimate basis with whomever is out on the Southern California freeways heading to their jobs, or perhaps dragging themselves home from their previous endeavors. The success of this leap of ratings fate may not be deemed success/failure for another 16 to 18 months, according to station program director Mike Thompson. That’s the nature of this beast.

KFWB-AM (980), recently rebranded as “The Beast” all-sports format, has already been asking Jeanne Zelasko, Marques Johnson and Sam Farber to time-slip their lives and start a show that starts at 5:30 a.m., jump-starting Jim Rome’s 9 a.m. arrival. Early ratings for the show, as well as the station, aren’t much of a ripple.

And it has been tried before. In the late 1990s, Brian Golden used to do a live 4-to-6 a.m. “Early Morning Sports Page” show for KAVL-AM (610), based in Palmdale and a Fox Radio Dodgers’ affiliate, trying to synch up with the thousands of commuters who made the daily trip between Kern County and the Newhall Pass.

But other than that, this KSPN innovation/experiment requires Rodgers and Washington to take one for the team. Whatever financial compensation is involved can be parlayed into a stock purchase of a local caffeine-driven company.

As Rodgers emerges at 11 a.m. from the ESPN Radio studios just before the lunch crowd hits LA Live — that adds up to six straight hours of sports yammering, including his syndicated Yahoo! Sports Radio shift from — it’s a bit of an eye opener as he heads home to Orange County to see his wife and three kids.

“Maybe I’m not a morning person — I know when I was 20, I wasn’t,” the 43-year-old admitted. “You just get up and do it.

“This is something I’m ridiculously excited about. ESPN is obviously a huge opportunity, a station that rates well in the market, they’re committed to succeed, grew up 20 minutes from here, I get talk about the teams obsessed with when I was a kid,”

For KSPN, the other purpose of having Rodgers-Washington start the on-air conversation from 5 to 7 a.m. on something called “ESPNLA Morning Show,” with the suggestion it become “Rise and Grind” leading into Colin Cowherd’s national show, is that it keeps things going when it moves to a 7-to-9 a.m. livestream on the company website and the ESPN app. Those technically-advanced in the male 18-34 and 25-54 age targeted demographics have another choice.

“Radio has become more like TV has been for years, where we have shows on multiple platforms that many times compete with each other,” said Thompson, who has been arriving himself at about 4:30 a.m. each day lately to help the launch that began last Monday.

KSPN, owned and operated by ESPN, had carried the solid national show hosted by Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg for years on the 710 signal until it was decided it could be shifted to the other ESPN affiliate in Southern California, Angels-owned KLAA-AM (830), when Thompson wanted to give local voices a try.

Rodgers had been that local KLAA voice for the last couple of years, based in studios at Angel Stadium, and solicited Thompson to include him in the new KSPN plans, making this look like a straight-up show swap.

To create this, however, Thompson decided to let go of highly-regarded sports news anchors/reporters Beto Duran, Pete Fox and Dave Joseph. The time taken for the top-of-the-hour update segments has been morphed into the existing KSPN sports-talk shows, thus smoothing over any sort of abrupt breaks — or opportunities for listeners to leave. Thompson points out other stations in this 80-station market have gone to a similar philosophy.

So enter Rodgers, whose sense of humor and even his facial features may remind you of comedian Seth MacFarlane. Rodgers’ backward career curve to this place of local recognition comes not long after 15 years of a wildly successful run as the driving producer for Rome’s burgeoning sports-talk empire, which lead to a syndication drive with the Premiere Radio Network.

Rodgers broke off from Rome’s run in 2009, mostly because he wanted to see if he could do this talking thing on his own. It was a difficult breakup, but like any marriage, “if it’s not going to end badly, then it’s not going to end,” Rodgers said.

After a stop in Houston, and then engaging with The Sporting News Radio Network that has since before Yahoo Sports Radio, Rodgers understands his solo career may need more than just a six-year span to fully separate from the perceived Rome influence.

“I still get questions all the time about Jim,” said the Arcadia native and UC Santa Barbara grad, “and I guess I have to steal a line that he has used when people still ask him if he’s the ‘Jim Everett guy’ (a reference to a confrontation Rome had with the former Rams quarterback while on an ESPN TV show in 1994).

“Jim would always say: Yeah, but there was a lot more to it than what you think happened. I’m really proud of what we did together. Now, I’m just trying this. I’m a work in progress.

“The thing that really gets me is when people say I’m trying to do a Rome impression. I mean, we worked intimately together for 15 years, and some of him rubbed off on me, and me on him. But stylistically we’re pretty different.”

The transition from producer to on-air talent was hardly as smooth as anticipated for Rodgers, who out of college aspired to be a local TV sportscaster.

“There’s a reason why those jobs are separate,” he said. “My role with Jim wasn’t a traditional producer, just booking guests or screening calls, I was more into content creation and shaping conversations, much more collaborative. That was my value to him.

“I saw when Jim used to get frustrated about things but I never understood why from the producer side. But now that I’m here, it makes perfect sense. When it’s your responsibility and your voice out there, and you make a mistake, it’s on you. That took me a while to figure out.

“It’s one of those things now that feels like going from an assistant coach to a head coach. Sure, I know how to draw up plays. But where I already held Jim in high regard for how he did his show, that respect goes to a whole new level for me now.”

Rodgers still spends his 9-to-11 a.m. window weekdays continuing to do his Yahoo Sports Radio show called “Travis Rodgers Now,” available on the Yahoo Sports app and YahooSportsRadio.com in L.A.

But even with the new wake-up call, Rodgers doesn’t turn in until shortly after 10 p.m. so he can follow L.A.-based games to their conclusion. So now, afternoon naps are schedule.

“When I did the show at KLAA (from 6 to 9 a.m.), it was just a 25-minute commute from my home in Laguna Niguel,” said Rodgers. “I could get up at 4:15 — again, no one should be up at that time — and have no problem.

“This is a little more of a drive, and I’m up at 3. But the difference between 3 and 4 is negligible — they’re both awful. But I’m happy to do it.

“I know the people on the road when we are on the air care about sports the same way someone who drives to work at 8 in the morning. I’ve always kind of wondered why there aren’t more local morning shows done like this.”

Let the other sports-talk station program directors sleep on that one.

Credit to the LA Times who originally published this story

Sports Radio News

Tony Bruno Relives Favorite Moments With Angelo Cataldi on 94 WIP

“I loved every day. We did stuff that put Sports Radio in Philly on the map and I’m proud of that.”

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Tony Bruno has been a staple of the sports radio business for decades. Bruno is from Philadelphia and was teamed up in the early nineties with a duo still dominating the local airwaves there today, Angelo Cataldi and Al Morganti. The three reunited Thursday morning on 94 WIP to remember the glory days of their partnership and friendship.

One of the first moments Cataldi asked Bruno if he remembered was the update he did from a tree outside of their studio and the answer was an emphatic yes.

“Absolutely, it’s one of the highlights of my life – other than interviewing four Presidents and every sports athlete in history – there’s no bigger moment than me climbing up in the tree, which was obstructing our view of William Penn and the city skyline. That’s what I do, I was a man of action. I’m not one of these guys that talks the talk, I climb the tree to do whatever is necessary.”

More frivolity followed when Cataldi harkened back to a segment of ‘Damsels in Distress’ and a time in which Bruno was sent on the street during a snowstorm to help shovel people out of their driveways. Bruno quickly recalled, “Man of the people. I should run for – I should of run for Governor of Pennsylvania or Senate or something.”

Bruno added that his favorite rant (and one that Cataldi loved too) wasn’t about the Cowboys or sports at all. “My favorite was my Infinity Broadcasting rant where I went on one day and even ripped our bosses, all the way up to the top of Infinity Broadcasting.” Cataldi cackled and praised Bruno’s rants more before being interrupted by Bruno saying, “yeah, my only regret is I never really ripped Al (Morganti) the way I should have ripped him. I let him of the hook so many times.”

An insightful moment came at the end of the call when Cataldi asked rhetorically if Bruno ever thought they (Cataldi & Morganti) would still be doing this thirty years later and then asked if Tony ever regretted leaving.

“It was a tough decision, Ang,” Bruno answered. “I was given an ultimatum. When I came to work with you guys, I loved every day. Every day we had fun. We did stuff that put Sports Radio in Philly on the map and I’m proud of that. It wasn’t one of those, ‘oh I got to go; I’m too big for these guys’. I even turned the ESPN job down a couple of times.

“My kids were still younger then, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t have to move. They said just come up here on weekends and that’s how ESPN Radio started. So I was doing weekends and Tom Bigby (Program Director) didn’t like that either, told me it wasn’t going to work. It was a philosophical thing. When he told me, ‘you should go because we are not going to pay you what they’re paying you,’ I said ok.

Cataldi began to sign off with Bruno with genuine thanks: “I got to tell you something Tone, we are indebted to you for the rest of our lives because we both learned so much from you and you are one of the great talents that radio has ever had.”

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Sports Radio News

Dodgers Temporarily Pull Broadcasters Off Road

“If the broadcasters’ are not dealing with severe cases of Covid and they have cleared health and safety protocols, it appears the team is open to sending them back out on the road.”

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When the Los Angeles Dodgers visit the East Coast later this week, the men that call the action on TV and radio will not be with them. The games will instead be broadcast on AM570 LA Sports and SportsNet LA from their respective studios.

“Due to a few members of the Dodgers’ broadcast team having recently tested positive for COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, the Dodgers have decided to not travel their broadcasters to upcoming games in Philadelphia and Washington,” the Dodgers announced in a statement. Similar to the 2020 and 2021 MLB seasons, the games will be broadcast from Los Angeles,” reads a statement on the team’s Twitter account.

No further details are available, so the severity and the number of cases remain unknown.

Last September, both members of the Dodgers’ television play-by-play crew were forced into quarantine. Joe Davis was the first to test positive, followed later that month by Orel Hershiser.

On Wednesday, manager Dave Roberts told the media that the Dodgers’ roster and coaching staff are not effected.

“There’s there’s no symptoms in the clubhouse. I think that as far as the upstairs, as an organization, we’re all just trying to be very cautious. But as far as in the clubhouse, coaches, training staff, nothing like that.”

If the broadcasters’ are not dealing with severe cases of Covid and they have cleared health and safety protocols, it appears the team is open to sending them back out on the road. 2022 was supposed to be a return to normal for the Dodgers and many other teams after not letting broadcasters travel in 2020 and 2021.

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Sports Radio News

Pat McAfee: ‘No One Will Disrespect Jim Rome On My Show’

“That’s because you need to respect the f–king jungle.”

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Jim Rome is a sports radio icon and Pat McAfee recognizes that.

On The Pat McAfee Show on Wednesday, McAfee was talking to co-host A.J. Hawk about how Rome trended recently on Twitter.

This happened after news of Tom Brady’s FOX Sports deal surfaced, and a list of the top paid sports media personalities was compiled. Rome came in behind Brady at number two making a reported $30 million a year, and many were surprised by that number. McAfee wasn’t.

“That’s because you need to respect the f–king jungle,” he said. “I have nothing but respect for Jim Rome.”

McAfee gave props to Rome, 57, saying he’s been doing sports talk probably longer than anyone. He’s one of the most widely distributed hosts in the country. Pat said he won’t tolerate anyone talking smack about the Smack-Off King.

“No disrespect will be said on this show of Jim Rome, ever,” he said. “Love that man.”

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