KJR Will Stay on Top of the Morning Until 710 Goes Local

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As a rabid sports omnivore in a city largely devoid of them, I couldn't be more excited that 710-AM has switched to an all-sports format, and not just because the radio dial in my 24-year-old Volvo is stuck on said frequency (although that's a big reason why). Nothing against KJR, but for a metro area of this size to have but one sports radio station is nothing short of scandalous. Competition will only make them -- and sports nuts like me -- sharper.

The fact that 710 has enlisted the brilliant ex-Sonic/current Sounder play-by-play man Kevin Calabro to fill ts afternoon drive time slot is nothing short of a coup, and pitting nice guy Brock Huard against the grating yet admirably ballsy Dave "Softy" Mahler is a shrewd bit of mid-day counterprogramming. But until 710 fills its morning drive time slot with something other than Colin Cowherd's nationally-syndicated show, it's going to rate a distant second in a field of two.

It's not that Cowherd's show is bad. On the contrary, it's pretty good. But it's not local. And when the competition's broadcasting the homegrown "Mitch in the Morning Show" a short way's down the dial, the odds of 710 putting a dent in KJR's morning audience is pretty slim. Seattle sports fans can get SportsCenter Redux pretty much anywhere; what they want with their first cup is sharp, witty analysis and witty banter involving their favorite local teams and media personalities, something that (Mitch) Levy's show consistently delivers, even if the host's sophomoric tendencies have earned him his fair share of detractors over the years.

What 710 is doing is understandable; it makes sense for the station to want to get its first two local shows humming before contemplating a third, and airing a syndicated show costs a fraction of what it would run to get an original program off the ground. But if 710 ever gets to a point -- and let's hope this comes sooner than later -- where it's in position to seriously challenge Levy, it'd be well-served to simply look to its bullpen and tap Art Thiel (pictured above) and Jim Moore to host such a program.

While Thiel and Moore still write for the online P-I, they do so on a freelance basis. Both have a plethora of radio experience and are already in the 710 fold; this week, each has begun a weekly, hour-long stint as a guest on Calabro's show. A few more months in this incubator should, in my opinion, have them primed to saddle their own horse.

Coincidentally, from 1995-1997, Thiel co-hosted an evening sports show on KIRO with Steve Rudman, with whom he's now launching a separate, sports-centric web venture, www.nwsportspress.com. "The program director assumed we were talking over the heads of the audience," recalls Thiel, explaining that show's demise. "Her quote: 'Even morons deserve radio stations.'"

Maybe so, but smart people deserve them too, and there are few smarter than Thiel and Moore. 710 would be wise to promote them to the top of the rotation as soon as possible.

 
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