Time to break radio silence, in a blog sense anyway, as I’m about to come up for air after another relentless month of helping to get the talkSPORT coverage of Euro2012 on the air. The bread and butter of my work is broadcasting live football matches, but the pace of these normally is concentrated on weekends with the odd bit of midweek production thrown in as well. It is only when you cover the games day in, day out over a relentless three week period that you realise just how intensive the whole process can be.
As I write this on the night of the final and sit watching Spain utterly destroy Italy in the expected manner, it seems only appropriate to note that on the other side of the Atlantic a sports radio celebration of a different kind was taking place. This weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the launch of the New York sports station WFAN, a most significant milestone indeed as the truth of the matter is that just about every sports radio station on the planet is following in their footsteps.
Back in the late 1980s in America there was real concern that AM radio was dying. The most popular music radio stations had all migrated to FM, leaving the murky monophonic waveband to be populated by a dying group of classic rock and niche oldies stations amongst the low audience and minimally profitable news talk stations. The launch of WFAN, initially on frequencies previously occupied by country station WHN before moving to the more familiar 600 Khz waveband which was famously the home of WNBC, made it a unique proposition in the marketplace – a network broadcasting and talking about sport 24 hours per day.
These days there are sports stations in every major American radio market, but WFAN remains almost unique in originating all its own programming 24 hours per day, as opposed to taking syndicated filler from the likes of ESPN and Fox Sports. I’ve no idea if the founding fathers of talkSPORT took it as the inspiration for their product, but the similarities in the two outfits a more striking every time you tune in. They have hosts who are straight down the wire analysts, along with more unabashed presenters who manage to get listeners foaming with rage at their apparently misguided views. Professional radio anchors are joined by retired legends, former players who still have a great deal to say and naturally they sell their live sports coverage in the evenings as the focus of all the output. Heck, they have even had their own share of major league controversies with long standing presenters drummed out of the building for causing just one outrage too many.
Listening to the station in the UK is tricky most of the time with some adroit proxy-hopping required, but when you make the effort it is always worth the while, even if half the material sails over the head of anyone with only a passing interest in the baseball, hockey and basketball teams of the New York metropolitan area. So as tonight we finish up one of the major reasons for our existence, I’m pleased to raise a glass to the sports radio pioneers. Happy birthday WFAN, and thanks for the entertainment.