HOUSTON'S TOP 20 SPORTS TALK PERSONALITIES OF 2011
Written by: Craig Shelton
Date posted: 1/1/2012
When I first sat down to begin the process of determining my choices for Houston's Top 20 sports talk hosts for 2011, I went though a process of self-evaluation in regard to my own personal approach in scrutinizing those under consideration. Admittedly, when I initially began the process, my evaluations were laced with prejudices towards what I'll classify as "pet peeves" regarding what hosts did on air. But as I sat in the press box at the Texans/Raiders game at Reliant Stadium earlier this season, I was able to gain some clarity on how to evaluate our local sports talk hosts.
My criteria does include obvious attributes like overall knowledge; diction and delivery of content; overall entertainment value; presentation and preparation; caller and social network interactive content; as well as interview skills. Added to those areas of scrutiny, is what I determined to be the second most critical component to my process of evaluation.
"Overall entertainment value" is in my opinion the number one attribute in my process of determining Houston's Top 20 best sports talk hosts for 2011. The second most important component in my evaluation process is "determining how an individual sports talk host, performs in the 'role' he or she was cast in by their programmer".
Oddly enough, I was able to gain clarity as I sat in the Texans press box attempting to embed an acceptable resolution within my mind, in trying to understand what the hell I had just witnessed on the last play of the Texans loss to the Oakland Raiders in Week 5? (I still say Schaub could have made it!)
After watching Matt Schaub decide "not" to take the game into his own hands (or feet) and send the Raider bereaved party packing from Reliant Stadium on that eerie Sunday, it "punched me smack in the face!"
As I sat there ripping Schaub to shreds in my bullet points for my show, I realized my error in my method of scrutinizing Houston's sports talk hosts for my rankings.
Just as Matt Schaub could not be judged on what Mike Vick or Aaron Rodgers may have done it that situation, but rather on "his" attributes in the system he is given to work in, so should sports talk hosts be judged.
Dan Mathews of SportsRadio610, is a good example to hopefully shed more clarity on my grading template.
Dan Mathews isn't a household name at this point in his young career, but he's off to a solid start. But if you were to take a closer look at all the tasks that Mathews navigates throughout a week of duties at SportsRadio610, his value increases immensely.
Dan Mathews excels in the role he's asked to play at SportsRadio610, a role the naked eye or ear of the average listener (and host) may just overlook.
David Nuno of 1560TheGame is another local host whose public appreciation probably isn't where it should be, due to him being used in a utility role with 1560 and Yahoo Radio.
Nuno has served in any number of on-air roles between 1560TheGame and Yahoo Radio, but It likely lessens his barometer of public appreciation in doing so. Well, in my format of evaluation, the Dan Mathews and David Nuno's of the world, get more of a fair shake in my evaluation process.
There's one other important component to my evaluation that should not be overlooked, so I saved it for last. I took into consideration the host's overall "impact" on the market as well. Meaning more than numbers generated in the Arbitron ratings format, I went looking for immeasurable attributes as well. I considered each host's contribution or impact on the local sports talk radio culture in the Year 2011. Rather that impact was "love 'em or hate 'em", if they were impactful, my format accounted for that intangible.
Do not underestimate the value of this component in my evaluation process! I hope this explanation of my grading template offers some clarification in my ranking process.
THE 2011 TOP 20 RANKINGS OF HOUSTON'S BEST SPORTS HOSTS
#1. Matt Thomas (SportsTalk790)
#2. Josh Innes (SR610)
#3. John Granato (1560/Yahoo)
#4. Lance Zierlein (SportsTalk790)
#5. Charlie Pallilo (SportsTalk790)
RANKINGS 1-5 COMMENTARY
The 1-5 rankings were by far the easiest for me to develop. The only struggle at all was some slight consideration to rate Lance Zierlein over John Granato. In the end, I felt Granato made a smoother transition after the breakup of he and Zierlein.
Granato was left for dead by many after he and Zierlein divorced, but Granato has sustained an entertaining product. Granato is great with sponsors and in delivering sponsor ads live.
Lance Zierlein has struggled to find his groove working in "The Big Show" format with Matt Jackson and Adam Wexler, but his overall talent is just too much of a force to keep out of the Top 5. In addition to Zierlein's raw talent, he's second to none in the market in delivering sponsor ads.
Charlie Pallilo is Charlie Pallilo, solid as they come. But the solo host format is a Jurassic concept in today's combative society in general. The fact that Pallilo has performed so well in such a dated format for this market, speaks volumes for his resume.
Josh Innes is a beast! The guy keeps it hot, love him or hate him. In fact, if not for his attacks on Houston and its listeners, he likely would have been #1. The fact that he hasn't figured that angle out, was enough for me to put Matt Thomas ahead of Innes in the final tally. You can't kill the client cause the customer is still always right when it comes down to it.
Matt Thomas is plain and simple the most entertaining sports talk host in Houston for 2011. Matt excels in his bedside mannerisms with the listeners, callers, and twitter followers. Thomas does a serviceable job delivering sponsor ads and is a gentleman and a true professional that should be acknowledged by his peers. (If he could just learn his route tree? #RouteTreeThomas)
#6. Sean Pendergast (1560/Yahoo)
#7. John Harris (1560)/Yahoo)
#8. Adam Wexler (SportsTalk790)
#9. Barry Warner (SR610)
#10. Mike Meltser (SR610)
RANKINGS 6-10 COMMENTARY
Developing the rankings for #6-10, was by far the toughest for me in this process. #10 Mike Meltser is a limitless talent assuming he becomes a bit less mechanical. His overall sports knowledge is excellent, as well as his diction, preparation, and delivery.
Love or hate "papa" aka Barry Warner, he's knowledgeable and not afraid to take an unpopular view and stick with it.
Adam Wexler and John Harris may be two guys I trust most for solid information. Both have limitations, and aren't suited for every work environment, but each is performing up to standard in their individual roles.
Sean Pendergast is another guy with an unlimited talent cache to draw from. Sean is knowledgeable, witty, and relatively balanced in his overall sports acumen. Sean is a rising star and may long-term find his niche in the national arena.
#11. Rich Lord (SR610)
#12. Dylan Gwinn (SportsTalk790)
#13. Marc Vandermeer (SR610)
#14. Brad Davies (SR610)
#15. David Nuno (1560/Yahoo)
RANKINGS 11-15 COMMENTARY
Rich Lord still appears to be in cruise control, but you can trust him to get you from point "a" to point "b", even if Josh Innes keeps grabbing the steering wheel. Rich's speaking voice is clean with elite diction that serves well as a sponsor representative. Rich is still driving the bus on the true biggest show in town!
Dylan Gwinn is the best example of the "impact" in the market I alluded to in my opening statements. He's not the most knowledgeable or best-prepared, but the guy moves the meter in his time slot. The Mighty Gwinn has dug in, and has done so in a climate where listeners are more acceptable to tabloid-like content. Gwinn is in as long as the local listener base remains in its present tolerance for unsubstantiated or laymen-like content. Gwinn is in Houston, and you have yourself to thank for that.
Marc Vandermeer and Brad Davies are kinda the same guy. Both have elite, clean deliveries. Both guys are safe ship navigators. Neither appears willing to give strong opinions, but Davies will offer up some meaningful angles on topics. Both are exemplary professionals that take on major roles in the Sunday production of the Houston Texans broadcasts. Two guys that are steady and safe within their assigned roles.
#16. Matt Jackson (SportsTalk790)
#17. ND Kalu (SR610)
#18. Greg Koch (SR610)
#19. John McClain (SR610)
#20. Brien Straw (SR610)
RANKINGS 16-20 COMMENTARY
I'll start this passage out with #20 Brien Straw. Obnoxious and agitating to state it plainly, best describes Mr. Straw. You won't know why you keep tuning in, but somehow you will, because he is always on the air. And that's where he qualified to make my ranking at #20. Straw is versatile and has been of great value under Gavin Spittles programming.
Generally speaking, it appears fans have soured on John McClain, by comparison to previous years. McClain was once a must-listen for most when he was on the air talking Texans football. It's my theory that John's popularity will always be directly connected to the success of the Texans. John's message doesn't really change, so if the Texans win, he'll be well received. If the Texans lose, he's a part of the "blame pool" as the team's beat writer.
Matt Jackson is serviceable in his role on "The Big Show" on SportsTalk790. Jackson does a good job interacting on the social network scene with listeners.
ND Kalu and Greg Koch of SportsRadio610, have both grown immensely in their roles as NFL specialists.
Kalu is surprisingly balanced outside of football, and has relevant content to add to NBA and NCAA basketball topics. Kalu has developed a welcomed knack of not sitting back and allowing uninformed hosts make ridiculous comments unchallenged. Kalu has also broadened his development into the realm of delivering solid sponsor ads. "So keep it gangsta folks, and get out there and eat some damned James Coney Island Hot Dogs".
Greg "Cookie" Koch is the ultimate common-sense analyst. Cookie won't go for the company line and is quick to integrate his layering skill set into a friendly, or not so friendly (Brein Straw) sports debate. Cookie is truly a "monster"! (Cheesy I know folks, but I couldn't resist.)
* HONORABLE MENTIONS
• Ralph Cooper:
Obviously there's a clear conflict of interest with Ralph Cooper and I working at the same station, so I omitted his name from these ratings. Obviously, with Ralph's resume of over three decades of service, his place is cemented in Houston's sports talk landscape. I'm stating the obvious, but the inclusion of Ralph Cooper in this ranking format would reshape the order of names listed.
• Marcus Coleman:
Again, an obvious conflict of interest with Marcus Coleman and I being co-hosts on KCOH (THE CUT), so I omitted him from my rankings.
Marcus Coleman is a former NFL defensive back with the NY Jets, Houston Texans, and Dallas Cowboys.
Marcus is growing as a talent in the Houston sports talk community who has a knack for honesty. Marcus will speak freely and honestly and isn't afraid to offer more than the "company line" that most athletes turned talk host normally fall back on. Marcus Coleman and former Green Bay Packer, Greg Koch of SportsRadio610, have similar qualities in their willingness to speak honestly.
• Max Edison & Jerome Solomon
Max Edison and Jerome Solomon are both sports writers for Houston print media sources. Both Edison and Solomon are seasoned on-air talents that make guest appearances around town, but have yet to land as regulars with a local station.
Max Edison writes for the Houston Defender, and is one of the most knowledgeable sports minds in the business. Edison is best known for his forwardness and brash combative delivery on radio. Edison has a deadly counter jab for any comment thrown at him, so get your facts straight when debating any sports topic with Max Edison.
Jerome Solomon writes for the Houston Chronicle, and has a solid reputation locally as an on-air talent. Solomon's critics will allude to his condescending delivery on air at times, but that's part of the draw for me personally. Solomon doesn't back down, regardless of the backlash targeting him or his opinions.
Both Max Edison and Jerome Solomon were omitted from my rankings mainly due to neither getting enough on-air time in my opinion to be gauged fairly. It's my opinion both are worthy of full time on-air opportunities in this market.
• A special acknowledgment to Adam Rapp, the host of SportsRappLive (@SPORTSRAPPLIVE) scheduled to air on SportsTalk790 in January 2012.
If I were to give an award for "Grinder Of The Year" or the "GTY" trophy for 2011, it would go to Adam Rapp. Adam has worked tirelessly over the past year on his underground/online sports talk show and it appears to be paying off. Congratulations to Adam Rapp and the SportsRappLive family! This is a full time talent just waiting to happen!
OTHER HOUSTON SPORTS TALK PERSONALITIES CONSIDERED:
SPORTS RADIO 610:
Capt. Mickey Eastman
97 5 ESPN:
1560 THE GAME/YAHOO RADIO
On behalf of HoustonMediaWatch.Com, I'd like to wish all of Houston's sports media a safe and prosperous 2012.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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