Five Reasons Why Sports Talk Radio Is Ignoring the Rockets

Categories: Sports

Photo by Marco Torres
Out of sight, out of mind on the radio waves.
I am and have always been an avid listener to sports talk radio. I enjoy the banter with callers, the analysis and I even manage to make it through the randomly juvenile antics that occasionally make their way across from morning shock jock-ery on other stations. Listening during the past few months, however, has been frustrating for fans of sports other than football.

In the case of the Astros, that might be warranted despite recently opening the season with a pair of impressive wins against the Yankees and finally calling up George Springer from the minors. But the Rockets are good...really good. They have secured home court in the first round of the playoffs and the team is populated with young, athletic guys who are fun to watch. They might be one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA.

Yet, outside of a scattering of segments with players and coaches, finding Rockets talk on the sports dial is damn difficult. Unfortunately, it isn't likely to get much better with the playoffs and there is a reasonable explanation, however unpalatable that might be for fans.

5. Sports talk is becoming less and less about callers.

Fewer and fewer sports talk shows are solo operations. In fact, only two of them -- Matt Thomas and Charlie Palillo (both on 790 KBME) -- exist. Gradually, sports talk has moved from caller-centric to host-driven with more analysis and opinion about the day's events mixed in with caller interaction. Anyone who has called in to shows over the years has probably noticed that call screeners are far more aggressive and often don't even bother to let people onto the show, rather taking the information and moving on. Social media and text messages have also become integral to sports talk limiting the need for callers, who can often slow a show down and even make it unlistenable. As Jim Rome has been fond of saying for many years, "More of me and less of you is a good thing." Sports radio formats have clearly taken that to heart.

4. More shows are dominated by former NFL players.

In the last few ratings books, Greg Koch and N.D. Kalu's morning show on 790 has dominated overall ratings. This is despite the fact that neither is a seasoned broadcaster. Both are, however, former football players. The show is, naturally, focused on football, pro football specifically and the Texans in the micro. Stations like KILT 610 have taken notice and now two of their shows each day are co-hosted by former NFL players Seth Payne (on the midday Mad Radio show with Mike Meltzer) and Ted Johnson (he joined my colleague Sean Pendergast and sports radio stalwart Rich Lord recently on the "Triple Threat" afternoon show). This is in addition to the significant amount of Texans programming on 610, their flagship station. The result is a lot less talk about sports other than football.

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The Rockets have been a mediocre team for years.  That kind of keeps things a bit low key.  The other point is that on air talent is schtick driven, and the few callers that get through are discouraging.


The main reason Football is King is because fans can watch all of the Texans games and other NFL games on TV for free, without cable TV. When I was a kid all of the Astros and Rockets away games came on free TV. Now if I am not mistaken, even the early playoff games the Rockets will play will not be on free TV. More and more people are cutting their cable TV cords and watching shows on Netflix and Hulu among others, and don't get to see Astros and Rockets games. Like you said, out of sight, out of mind.

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