ESPN radio making some changes

What sports-talk radio fans hear throughout our region and across the nation from ESPN Radio will change significantly beginning Jan. 2 — and that’s on the heels of big changes that were already implemented in the past few weeks.

An altered morning drive show, “Golic and Wingo,” debuted in mid-November, replacing “Mike and Mike,” which ran for more than a decade and a half and, in many ways, was the face of ESPN Radio and even ESPN itself.

While Mike Golic remains, paired with Trey Wingo, Mike Greenberg is off to an ESPN morning drive TV show that will launch in the spring.

Minus Greenberg, the morning show is just OK, at best. Greenberg’s paranoia and personality played well against Golic’s devil-may-care persona.

Some of it was staged, but most was based in enough reality to matter. Plus, Greenberg was deft on radio, a master of transitions and teasing listeners to keep them coming back.

That’s just not Wingo’s strength. He and Golic seem more similar than anything else, so it’s comfortable for them but kind of bland for listeners.

You get a sense ESPN brass feels that way, too.

The show originates from a lower-budget studio than its predecessor, and the radio simulcast will go to a much smaller TV audience in the new year on ESPNews.

Along with that change, listeners will get Stephen A. Smith from 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays beginning in 2018. Plus, host Ryen Russillo announced he was stepping away from the radio microphone this week, and Bomani Jones had earlier decided to leave his show.

So, the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. timeslot — mostly the hour from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. when “Sports Central with Cory Giger” begins in Altoona and State College — will feature Will Cain.

That’s a lot of change, and not all for the better.

While ESPN Radio does well in small- to medium-sized markets across the country, it struggles to compete in bigger markets against local sports-talk shows. So, if Smith and Cain do not connect well in those non-major markets, and if the chemistry of the morning show remains just average, more changes could follow.

Tuner tidbits

n Both the Steelers and Eagles play on Christmas Day, with the Steelers meeting the Houston Texans (4:30 p.m., NBC/NFL Network) and the Eagles hosting the Oakland Raiders (8:30 p.m., ESPN).

n For non-NFL fans, the NBA offers five games on Christmas Day, often its most-hyped day of the regular season. It begins with Sixers-Knicks (noon, ESPN), followed by Cavaliers-Warriors (3 p.m., ABC), Wizards-Celtics (5:30 p.m., ABC), Rockets-Thunder (8 p.m., ABC) and Timberwolves-Lakers (10:30 p.m., TNT).

n Broadcaster Bob Costas was named as the 2018 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented by the Baseball Hall of Fame. Since its inception in 1978, the award has recognized numerous baseball broadcasting legends, including Mel Allen, Red Barber, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Jon Miller and Vin Scully. Costas starting calling Major League Baseball in 1982 for NBC. He’s also worked for the Baseball Network, and the MLB Network. He will be honored July 28, 2018, at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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