Friday, July 26, 2013

The Most Annoying Sounds in Omaha Sports Radio

Last week's announcement that Nick Bahe was returning to Omaha's airwaves wasn't a surprise.  When he announced he was leaving 93.7 radio in Lincoln in May, you had to assume he was heading back to Omaha. At that time, though, I figured it was to KXSP (590 AM) to replace Michael Grey, who had just flown off to Seattle.
But once KOZN-1620 AM obtained the rights to Creighton basketball, 590 looked unlikely and 1620 seemed to be the destination.  The big surprise is that Bahe is bumping the Jim Rome show to weakling sister station 1180 "the Mister Microphone".  Bold move by 1620 to go completely local from 7 am to 6 pm daily... and especially to bypass Rome.  I'm not a fan of Rome; his schtick has gotten incredibly tired over the years.  If you get on Rome's bad side, he's merciless.  Remember how he ripped on "Beau Bridges" (err... Bill Callahan) during his time in Lincoln?  Granted, Billy C deserved plenty of criticism, but Rome's was pretty myopic.

On the other side, if you appeared on his show, Rome treats you with kid gloves. He throws softball questions, and afterwards, calls the interview "epic".  Bo Pelini has appeared on Rome several times and gets positive pub every time.

But is Bahe's show going to be any better? The Schick and Nick show got old pretty fast, and I suspect that Bahe going solo will be the same.  He'll have an audience though, but for me, 1620 will be dead after 11 am.

It got me thinking about the most annoying sounds in Omaha sports radio.  Here's my list of the most annoying sounds in Omaha sports radio, in no particular order.

Petros Papadakis: When he sings "OHHHH YEAAAAAHHH" to continue "Each One Teach One", that's sends me racing to change the radio in the car.  Simply bad radio.

Jim Rose:  Just about anything he does with sports is bad. Last week, I listened to Rose's sports report for the first time in nearly a year, and Rosey informed me that UNO's Tony Turgeon had been drafted by the NHL's Florida Panthers.  Uh no... it was a free agent deal. Closer than all of the Misinformation he spewed, trying to defend Steve Pederson and Bill Callahan, though.  Still wrong.

Jim Rome: The Friday scream might be the only thing that tops Petros...

Nick Bahe:  That laugh...oh, that laugh...   Nails meet chalkboard, and unlike Petros and Rome, it happens multiple times each show.

Matt Perrault and Travis Justice:  Thankfully gone...

Anybody/anything that I missed?

Monday, July 15, 2013

SB Nation Scoops the World-Herald With UNO Hockey News - Twice

Dean Blais filled the open assistant position on the UNO hockey coaching staff on Friday with Alex Todd, currently the head coach of division III Castleton State in Vermont.  Todd replaces Steve Johnson, who resigned after one season in Omaha. At that time, the rumor was that George Gwozdecky might be the guy, but now it looks like the former Denver coach is going to take a year off and give broadcasting a try.

The World-Herald's Rob White reports that the job almost went to former Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki, who instead chose to be an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks AHL farm team in Rockford. Todd is a Wisconsin native who played at Union College before taking over Castleton State in 2005-06. He's been a success at that level, but doesn't have any division 1 coaching experience.  Probably most important is Todd's background as a defenseman, along with his background with USA Hockey's summer development programs.

But White wasn't first with this story... the story actually broke with Wisconsin blog "Bucky's 5th Quarter". Not sure how Andy Johnson got the story first, other than Todd is a Wisconsin native.

But that wasn't the only time an SB Nation blog scooped the Omaha paper on Friday. Earlier that morning, Chris Dilks of Western College Hockey reported that goalie Dayn Belfour wouldn't be returning, now that Kirk Thompson and Reed Peters are joining the team this fall. Thompson and Peters signing was not news on Friday; Belfour's departure was.  And later that day, White also posted the story.

Dayn Belfour

Not sure how the SB Nation blogs can scoop the Omaha newspaper, except that the World-Herald never has replaced Chad Purcell on the hockey beat.  White has picked up some of the coverage, but he's stretched covering UNO's other sports as well as the Sarpy County baseball team. Maybe White couldn't get the story confirmed, and the SBN blogs ran with the story unconfirmed initially. Or maybe White just got scooped - twice - when he normally is focused on baseball, not pucks.  (Disclaimer:  I also write for SB Nation's "Corn Nation" blog, so I have a natural bias for the work of my fellow bloggers...) I lean towards the "scooped", as Johnson and Bucky's 5th Quarter talked to Todd three days earlier.
Back to Belfour's departure, I did like the quote that Blais provided to the World-Herald:

“Dayn filled a position for us for a while,” Blais said. “But we’re going to try to make a run at a championship, and with that we had to get more depth at every position.”

While Belfour didn't play badly, it seems that Blais wants the team to play at a higher level. Or maybe "needs" is the better word.  That would explain why Blais ripped the redshirt off of Ryan Massa once he realized that Belfour wasn't going to be the answer in February.

And why that need?  "We're going to try to make a run at a championship."  We're going into Dean Blais' fifth season at UNO. Blais' record at North Dakota speaks for itself, but it hasn't happened yet at UNO, where the Mavs haven't made the final weekend of conference tournament play under Blais.  UNO fans are no doubt disappointed in how the last two seasons have finished up, and needless to say, Blais feels that urgency.

No doubt in my mind that Blais knows talent, and if he thinks that these incoming freshman give UNO a better chance to win this season or next, so be it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Replacing Rosenblatt Still The Correct Decision

The dearth of home runs during this year's College World Series raised a lot of attention and criticism towards TD Ameritrade Park.  Does the southeastern alignment turn the prevailing southeasterly breezes into home run eaters than enablers?  Yes, to some extent.  But the ballpark change wasn't the only change to college baseball that season.  The bats were dialed down in 2011, which coincidentally matched the first season in the new downtown ballpark. And even before the NCAA regionals began, the LA Times noted the difference:
"Balls that might have gone 10 feet over the fence are landing 10 feet in front," UC Irvine Coach Mike Gillespie said. "It just dies and comes down like one of those parachute toys."
Again, this was June 1, 2011, and before the first College World Series game was played that year. The problem isn't so much the ballpark, but the bats.  Tom Shatel realized this during last week's Home Run Derby.
OK, so I went to the Home Run Derby last week at TD Ameritrade. And let me tell you: It's not the fences. Not the park. Not the direction of home plate. Not the baseball seams. It's those ever-loving, ever-radioactive, wired-for-distance bats.The college kids in that derby faced batting practice pitches. But when they connected, they were launching July 3 rockets into the bleachers and on occasion over the bleachers and into the concession stands.
During the series, a lot of pundits expressed their outrage over the lack of home runs and tried to pin it on the stadium. While they didn't come out and say it, the unspoken message was clear: the new stadium was a mistake.

Except it's not.  There's a lot of romance associated with the CWS at Rosenblatt.  But it wasn't because of the stadium, it was in spite of it.  Rosenblatt wasn't the source of the magic, the magic occurred because of the event.  And while Rosenblatt was stretched to fit the CWS, it was stretched to the limit.

ESPN's Kyle Peterson found this article from the Baton Rouge Advocate that revisited all of the furor from the Rosenblatt debate five years ago.  It strikes a blow at all of the myths that have been perpetuated over why the new stadium was built:
  • The NCAA, not Mike Fahey, asked for the new stadium, recognizing that Rosenblatt was stretched to it's limits.
  • The NCAA was thinking about leaving Omaha rather than stay at Rosenblatt.
 “We looked at it (remodeling Rosenblatt) as a short-term fix,” said Larry Templeton, who served as the chair of the NCAA’s baseball committee. “We really also had the conversation of, ‘Is this the time to start moving the championship around?’

Two weeks ago, I did something that was virtually impossible to do prior to 2011... visit the Zoo during the CWS. In order to accommodate everybody who packs into the Zoo during the summertime, Zoo crowds spill over into the Rosenblatt lots...except, of course, during the CWS, when those lots are reserved for baseball fans. That kept people away from the Zoo during the Series, until the Series moved downtown.

So after a morning of checking out the sea monkeys, giraffes, lions, tigers, and bears, we headed home. We had hoped to stop at Zesto's, but that landmark is closed because of a plumbing issue.  (Please reopen! Nothing tops off a trip to the Zoo on a hot day like a hot fudge shake.)  But we did stop at the "Infield at the Zoo".  We grabbed my kids wiffle ball bats, and had a great time, making our own memories at the site of so many other great memories.  My daughter did her own re-enactment of Warren Morris' legendary home run, and even though it barely went 30 feet, it was the highlight of their day.

While we were there, Mississippi State fans were gathering around the field. We loaned them our wiffle ball bats, and they posed, ala Will Clark, at home plate to re-enact their own memories. Last year's final viewing of Rosenblatt was sad, this grand reopening was truly a rebirth. And frankly, it's something I suspect my kids will want to do again and again, whenever we go back to the Zoo.

Some longtime College World Series fans will no doubt sadly channel Joni Mitchell as they realize that the outfield has now been paved, to "put up a parking lot". The foul lines and poles still exist, burnished into the concrete.  Small pedestals mark the bases, and the outfield restrooms are being renovated for use by zoo visitors. Except it wasn't really paradise.  The old stadium had truly served it's purpose for many, many years, but it was time for a change.

Certainly a lot of memories happened at 13th and Bert Murphy Drive in the past.  But based on my family's experience two weeks ago, memories will continue to be made at the "new" Rosenblatt. Really, we got the ultimate win-win.  The NCAA got a new stadium.  Omaha got a 25 year commitment for the College World Series.  The Zoo got badly needed space to expand.

No doubt about it, replacing Rosenblatt was clearly the right decision.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Creighton's Move to 1620 Leaves Little Room for UNO Coverage

After a day of teasing, KOZN (1620 AM) Radio announced on Friday that the station was taking over the broadcasts of Creighton Basketball from KXSP (590 AM). It's big news for 1620, but I'm not so sure it's a good move for local sports fans.  NRG Media, the operators of 1620, signed a five year contract to carry UNO sports on 1620 and KZOT (1180 AM) last fall. So now, NRG has the rights to Creighton mens and women's basketball, volleyball, and baseball, along with UNO basketball and hockey.

Add in Omaha Lancers hockey, and NRG controls every local sporting event in Omaha...on three AM radio stations.  I understand why NRG pursued this deal.  I'm not sure why this is a good move for fans, especially UNO fans.

The big prize for 1620 is obviously Creighton basketball, now that the Jays will be playing in the new Big East.  But 1620's signal is far inferior to 590's.  590's signal reaches into Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri, and Kansas.

1620's signal struggles to reach Valley at night.

Why do I care about Creighton fans?  I don't really.  My concern is that with Creighton game coverage now on 1620, UNO coverage will get bumped even further down the priority list. I've been very disappointed by UNO's agreement through Nelligan Sports to place hockey games on 1180 AM ("Zone Two").  Prior to 1180 AM, UNO broadcasts were on the FM dial, with coverage booming all the way west to Columbus and beyond.

On 1180, the signal breaks up badly by the time you reach 156th Street.  I'm sure the main selling point in the NRG deal was to trade off hockey coverage for increased coverage of UNO basketball and to get the team mentioned on 1620's talk shows.  That was a bad tradeoff.  Yes, the Dean Blais show is back on the radio, but that's not worth the cost.  Unsportsmanlike Conduct never talks UNO hockey, and "Sharp & Benning" seemed to limit themselves to one 5-10 minute weekly segment with Blais.

And with Creighton basketball joining the NRG stable, that means even less coverage for UNO sports.  Some of those UNO basketball games that were on 1620 will get bumped to 1180, which has the signal strength of one of those old "Mister Microphones".

Can UNO get out of their Nelligan/NRG deal?  I doubt it, but it's something UNO needs to investigate. UNO shouldn't accept playing second fiddle on their radio home, and with Creighton now on 1620 AM, that's what UNO is. It's simply a statement of fact.  Creighton is going to get the coverage; they play in the Big East in front of 17,000 fans.

Meanwhile, one has to shake their heads and wonder at what the Journal Broadcast Group is planning to do with their powerful signal on 590, other than hook the transmitter up to ESPN's satellite and forget about it.  They've dropped the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs.  Now they've lost Creighton.  Michael Grey left for Seattle, and the studio has been dark ever since.  It's simply a squandered resource, and Journal doesn't even seem to care anymore.

Maybe this is the wakeup call for Journal, now that they don't have anything left other than ESPN.  I doubt it, because it seems that Journal has thrown in the towel on sports radio, even though 590's ratings had recovered and, in fact, were starting to approach 1620's.

But this should be a wakeup call for UNO.  Hopefully UNO finds a way to get their Nelligan/NRG deal modified in light of the new Creighton deal.