Being a sports fan in southwest Florida is not easy. In the last
ten years, local newscasts have dramatically cut the time alloted to
sports and local newspapers have smaller staffs therefore scaling back
on what they cover.
Sports Radio should have thrived locally all these years by
filling an obvious need. When in fact, its remarkable southwest
Florida even has sports radio today.
The first station (AM 770) to try it had signal problems. In the
morning it was often interrupted by a Spanish station from the east
coast and at 5;30 pm the FCC mandated it lose 90% of its power. All
of which was a blessing because the station was horrible.
In 2000, it's afternoon lineup was a penile enhancement show from
1-2 pm, You read that right, a penile enhancement show. For an hour!
Every day! From 2-4 pm, there was a new sports guy in town who had
just spent 5 years in North Dakota. He wasn't very good but he
compounded that by working at ABC-7. Which was the ratings equivalent
of being in the witness protection program. The ride home (4-6 pm)
was a business report that originated from West Palm Beach.
Some sports station, huh? It led then morning show host, the
late Joe Scott, to utter the phrase "make sure you listen to our
afternoon lineup of cocks, jocks and stocks."
Obviously he was a big South Carolina Gamecocks fan. Go Cocks!
When you put it all together, the signal with the programming, it
had to be one of the ten worst stations in broadcast history. Yet the
local sports fan was willing to put up with it, just so long as they
got SOME sports talk.
Ten days before 9/11, SportsRadio 770/ESPN was born. The signal
was still a problem (at night it can't be heard in Collier County) and
being on AM is sure a great sound during all those afternoon
thunderstorms. It didn't matter. The southwest Florida sports fan
needed their fix. Yes it was a bad to mediocre product but just ask a
Cleveland Browns fan. A losing team is one thing but no team is a lot
The sports fan remained relegated to AM while everyone else got
their music or news talk on a clear FM signal. That's ok. It's like
being a fan of the 2013 Miami Marlins. You feel like a VHS tape
living in a DVD world.
Then last fall sports talk moved to some low power FM signals (4
of them) spread throughout the region. It sounded better but a drive
from FGCU to 5th Avenue, would require a listener to change the
station twice. It was the equivalent of signing a free agent or two
that made your team improve from bad to mediocre.
Now that's all going to change. At long last, the sports fan is
getting what they deserve. No more gimmicks or shortcuts. Beginning
this Thursday, sports radio in southwest Florida will be heard on a
50,000 watt FM signal.
The station long known as 99X becomes 99.3 ESPN.
No more hoping it doesn't rain or having to listen to a certain
station depending on what road you're driving on. It doesn't matter
if its 7 AM or PM. January or June. Sports radio has finally gotten
the call up. After 13 years of riding buses in the minors, it's
heading to "The Show."
Which is fitting, during this the 25th anniversary week of the
iconic baseball movie "Bull Durham." In it career minor leaguer Crash
Davis thinks back to his time in the majors; "where someone else
carries your luggage for you, batting practice is held with white
baseballs, the ballparks are cathedrals and the woman all have long
legs and brains."
Of course Crash only spent 21 days in "The Show."
After everything the local sports fan has been put through, they
sure deserve a lot more than that.