The news seemed to come out of nowhere last week that a new sports talk radio station was setting up shop on the AM dial.
Cumulus Media on Monday launched 1270 The Fan, which features a mid-day local show hosted by Rich Gaenzler. The rest of the day and night features network programming from the new CBS Sports Radio, including shows hosted by Doug Gottlieb, John Feinstein and Tiki Barber, among others.
The 45-year-old Gaenzler has been in radio for nearly 25 years. He also hosts a weekday afternoon show on 103.3 FM The Edge, where he is known as the Bull, and is familiar to Bills fans as a former contributor to the team's radio broadcasts when the games aired on Cumulus stations 97 Rock and The Edge. Gaenzler knows the long odds his station faces in trying to compete with the established sports talk station WGR 550.
“We realize it's going to be an uphill fight,” Gaenzler said by phone on Friday after his shift on The Fan. “We absolutely are the underdog, but we'll be working our hardest to put as much of a dent in the landscape as we can.”
Cumulus' plans to launch the sports talk outlet came together just in the past few weeks.
“This was something that happened kind of abruptly,” Gaenzler said. “I just kind of learned we were going to do this.”
Gaenzler's show airs from noon to 3 p.m., when CBS Sports Radio carries its marquee program — the Jim Rome Show, which in Buffalo remains on WGR. Does Gaenzler think about the fact that he's competing with two big names, Rome and with Rush Limbaugh on WBEN 930?
“The only time I can think about it is when people bring it up,” he said. “I don't really think about who my competition is. We're just doing our best and hoping to get whatever audience we can.”
During Gaenzler's first week on the air, more than a few callers began their comments by taking some shots at WGR, saying it was great to have an alternative. (That's a sentiment we know something about at The News, where people call to scold us by saying “I wish the Courier were still around.”)
He has no illusions about overtaking WGR in the ratings, but Gaenzler thinks there is a fair-sized niche that can be filled by The Fan.
“You have to talk about the Bills and Sabres if you have a sports station in Buffalo,” he said. “But people also like the Bisons and Bandits, and the major college teams that are not getting any play from the other guys. There are some really good quality sports teams around. The Bandits are virtually sold out every game, and everybody goes to at least one Bisons game every year. Now with the Toronto affiliation and being in the AL East, there will be more excitement.
“UB is in a pretty significant conference” as a member of the Mid-American, and Jimmy Baron is doing a great job with Canisius. Then there's Niagara hockey, high school sports, youth sports. I look forward to touching on all of them.”
Gaenzler said he's getting the sense from his email, texts, Facebook and Twitter feeds that his show is finding an audience.
“People who might be used to listening to a national guy in that time slot, now they have a local show, somebody talking local sports at that time of day. It helps to have a local guy who they know hosting the show, a guy they see on the softball diamond, basketball court, the golf course, or out having a beer at the bar. There's something to be said for that.”
You didn't know?
Mike Scott is the play-by-play announcer for Canisius women's basketball games, which are webcast on GoGriffs.com. Last week he was catapulted into national media consciousness after he got very excited when Tiahana Mills of Canisius sank a half-court shot at the buzzer to defeat Siena in their game last Friday.
Scott grew up as a fan of the World Wrestling Federation and a tagline from the WWF's New Age Outlaws popped into his head while announcing the game. After Mills sank the shot, Scott yelled “Scoooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrre,” sounding like a Brazilian soccer announcer. Then he added this: “Oh, you didn't know? You'd better calllllll somebody!,” which is a cleaned-up version of the Outlaws' line.
The game highlight with Scott's call quickly went to YouTube, and eventually made it to ESPN's SportsCenter, where it was rated as the top Play of the Day. AwfulAnnouncing.com and NBC Sports Network's College Basketball Talk site also ran items about the call.
“Personally I feel somewhat sheepish about it, all this undeserved fame,” Scott told The News. “I didn't make the shot. I'm just an overexcited announcer who watched too much pro wrestling when he was a kid. I've never had a buzzer beater before and I've been doing this six years — five with Canisius. The phrase just popped into my head and now it's taken on a life of its own.”