The Influence of Houston Sports Talk Radio

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The Journey

In April of 2008, I began a commute that would change the way I absorbed information about sports. My journey started in Copperfield and ended in Downtown Houston. On a good day the commute took 38 minutes. On a bad day, it was easily an hour and a half of HATE. I’m not good in traffic. The existence of traffic is mind boggling to me. There’s nothing about it that makes sense. Just drive, it’s that easy.

(Which Sports Radio Stations Influences Us The Most? Pg. 2)

After about 2 months of spending anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours in my truck a day, my iPod playlists had been ran into the ground. I was sick of music and needed a change. The desperation made me hit a button on my radio that hadn’t been used in years. The actual AM/FM radio button on my console. It was a button that was foreign to me, because, who listens to the radio?

FM stations were immediately out of the question. I began surfing the AM stations in hopes of anything stimulating, that would make me stop thinking about the stupidity I was tasked with dealing with everyday.

As fate would have it, I stumbled upon Sports Radio 610. Marc Vandemeer and Andre Ware were behind the mic chatting about the Houston Texans. I remember thinking at the time, “Why is this guy (Vandermeer) so biased about his opinion on the Houston Texans?” My ignorance with sports talk radio was overwhelming.

That’s not a knock on Vandermeer or 610. His chat was intriguing enough to keep me listening.

It didn’t take long, before surfing the internet about Houston sports during my lunch break became a must, rather than just something I did from time to time. It was something that I had to do to stay up keep up with topics that were being brought up daily, while I was fighting traffic.

The Switch

610 gets all the credit for being the gateway drug. But Charlie Pallilo is the reason for the addiction. Charlie brings a level of realness to sports radio that’s fair and rational. He’s the “Rain Man” of sports radio in Houston.

There was still a void that needed to be filled in the morning. 790 had Brad Davies on at the time, and I wasn’t a fan of what he was bringing to the table. The struggle brought me further down the dial to the Double Rods of 1560 The Game. There was something different about Lance Zierlein, John Granato, Sean Pendergast, and John Harris as hosts. They made 1560 feel like a whole different genre of sports radio. It was entertaining and witty.

Houston Purgatory

Between 2008 and present day there has been a lot of changes in Houston sports talk radio. Some good, some bad. The one thing that stays consistent in the Houston market, is aside from jumping stations, “the game changers” never leave Houston. And we can all be thankful for that.

The loyalty in sports radio runs deep. As fans, we find a specific host or station that they relate to, and tend to slander others. Sean Pendergast once told me, “Some people think that we don’t like other hosts or listen to other stations. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s no reason to make enemies in this industry, because you never know who you could end up working with.” Pendergast mentioned that to me in passing, back in 2012.

In December of 2013, he rocked the world of 1560 faithfuls, and announced that he was leaving Yahoo Sports Radio for Sports Radio 610. I listened to his last show at 1560, broadcasting live from Nick’s Place. Sean and John took a call from a man that sounded to be in tears. I remembering thinking at the time, “Am I getting trolled?”

That was the beauty of 1560, their troll game went hard in the paint like Bob Ross. Pendergast leaving 1560 marked the end of an era.

There’s a level of concern that comes with hosts changing stations or who they’re paired up within their own station. Like any good team it’s about chemistry. If it’s not there, the product suffers. Just because a host is a staple in Houston sports talk doesn’t mean that their new show will be a success. We’ve seen good hosts like Matt Jackson and Adam Wexler get canned for Jay Mohr. That being said, Lord and Pendergast are two professionals. They’re not going anywhere.

Houston itself is something of an enigma. Four sports talk radio stations, flip flopping hosts in order to capture the most ratings. 610 has a stronghold on the market, and it’s not just because they broadcast the Houston Texans games. Last months Nielsen ratings showed their midday show MaD Radio (Mike Meltser and Seth Payne) at the top of the list. The runner up was In the Trenches (N.D. Kalu and Greg Koch) on 790.

Both shows are very good, in my opinion. What sets them apart from the others, is how they’re able to stay on topic, while combining on air chemistry with added entertainment. Oh, and actually taking phone calls from their listeners.

Sports talk radio listeners want to feel like they’re apart of the show. They want an outlet to give their opinion, and want the host’s feedback. In a sense, a sports talk radio host is no different than the listener.

What even makes a sports talk host qualified to do their job? Are they qualified because they went to school to become a radio host? Are they qualified just because they use to play a professional sport? Or does their qualification stem through having a dad that use to be apart of an NFL franchise?