ESPN Radio sports fans left out to dry

It was not a good week for loyal fans of sports talk radio in the area.

When it comes to Forever Media taking ESPN off its airwaves last week, it’s not as much why they did it, but how they did it — without any warning whatsoever to its loyal listeners, of which I may be the leader.

Sports talk radio had been on AM-1430 at least since the 1990s when I once called into “The Pete Rose Show,” and the legendary Charlie Hustle asked me why in the world I liked the Texas Rangers.

From Rose to Mike and Mike to Stephen A. Smith, etc., sports fans around here could always count on WVAM for ESPN Radio.

But not anymore.

It happened in the middle of last week without warning. There were no commercials, no promotions, no billboards purchased by Forever Media, no ad in the Mirror announcing the move. Or, how about a commercial on the radio — maybe one of Forever’s radio stations, such as WFBG, WRKY, WALY or Froggy 98?

A simple 30-second promo spot saying goodbye, or that ESPN is leaving the airwaves would have sufficed. Nothing. It was there. Then it was gone..

You can ask my family or the people I work with. I am always listening to the radio. I wake up to it in the morning and fall asleep to it at night. Talk to the people at my gym, who watch me walk back and forth in the pool for an hour wearing headphones.

Once, when I first returned to the Mirror in 2003, I wore those giant headphones to work one night to listen to ESPN 1430 while working at my desk. To paraphrase my boss at the time, Neil Rudel: “Is this going to be a new look, Scotty?”

As far as I’m concerned, the move had to be financial. I’ve read where it costs money to put ESPN on the air, whereas switching to an oldies music format — the new Toona 1430 — is probably way cheaper. But think about it: You have oldies music already on local FM dials — 94.3, 94.7, 96.1 — all owned locally by Sounds Good Media.

There is also oldies music on WALY and WRKY, as well as stations out of Johnstown (FM 96.5 and 101.7), Tyrone (FM 107.1 and 96.9/100.7) and State College (FM 97.1 and 93.7). Did I mention 103.5 FM out of Huntingdon plays oldies, along with 107.5 in Bedford?

You get my point.

By the way, it’s 2019 and do people really want to listen to AM music when it’s on FM? Maybe Forever thinks I’ll get out my walkman or my boom box to listen to its new station.

I’m glad Toona 1430 will still carry Penn State sports, the Pittsburgh sports teams and Cory Giger’s “Sports Central” show.

But that’s not enough.

And here is where Sounds Good Media saves the day — a little bit. Monday through Friday, between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., Fox Radio is carried on WRTA 1240, which also can be heared on FM 98.5. The likes of R.J. Bell, Rob Parker and Chris Broussard can be heard talking sports each night.

Again, though, not enough.

I want 24 hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week sports radio. Here’s my dream world: Sounds Good Media puts its entire AM news talk format on its FM 98.5 feed, and then puts Fox Radio on AM 1240, which features the likes of former ESPN star Colin Cowherd, who now works for Fox Radio.

You know what, when I go to sleep tonight, I’ll put on my headphones, close my eyes and dream my little dream. If it comes true, that would definitely be enough.

Scott Franco is a sports writer and page designer for the Mirror. He can be reached at 946-7528 or at sfranco@altoonamirror.com.

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