I headed to Los Angeles by driving to New Jersey. Geography clearly isn’t one of my strong suits.
But by driving 375 miles on Monday Jan. 7 to catch a plane out of LaGuardia Airport, I was able to get some lessons in radio, football, health and public relations.
I began my trip listening to WGR’s morning team of Howard Simon and Jeremy White analyzing the Buffalo Bills decision to name Syracuse Coach Doug Marrone the National Football League’s new football coach.
About 15 minutes in, I decided to turn to the new sports format on WHLD 1270, which has displaced swing music and angered the senior citizens who listen to the station and who are unfortunately deemed worthless by advertisers.
John Feinstein was the host at the time in the CBS Sports Radio format and he began discussing an issue close to my heart. He discussed his own heart issues and explained he was about to see a doctor to see how he was doing.
Feinstein added the last time he went in for routine tests he ended up with open-heart surgery. It was a surprise to him since he passed a stress test earlier. I was thinking “welcome to my world.” I passed a stress test easily a few months before my own problems last May led to a Pergament family record of stents in my heart.
While noting he was about to see a doctor, Feinstein played doctor on the issue of the day. He analyzed Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to allow quarterback Robert Griffin III to play in a playoff loss to Seattle when Griffin was in obvious pain before he damaged his knee further and had to be taken out.
My memory is that Feinstein said he doesn’t really like Shanahan but didn’t really blame him if a doctor and Griffin told him he could play. This conversation came before Griffin had to undergo serious knee surgery.
About 45 minutes into my ride – I think I was near Pembroke – I began to lose WHLD and looked for a Syracuse station to hear the area’s take on the loss of Marrone and who should be my alma mater’s next coach.
I think the station I found was at 1260 AM, right next to 1270. It was a Cumulus station like WHLD and carries CBS Sports Radio except when it airs local sports talk.
The Syracuse host generally seemed understanding about Marrone’s move to the NFL, but callers seemed mixed. It was clear from listening for just a brief time that Marrone had reasons to leave his alma mater besides the big payday from the Bills. For one thing, the Carrier Dome has had attendance issues and there was the general feeling the program and Marrone weren’t getting the support they deserved.
Like Bills fan, some SU fans wanted a big name hire to take over the program. Boise State’s Chris Petersen was advocated by one guy who thought the area’s fishing and wild life would lure him away from a winning program if SU was willing to pay a guy big time money. I laughed at that suggestion. Another caller suggested SU defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, who eventually got the job.
About 30 minutes past Syracuse, I began losing the station. It was about noon when the Bills were scheduled to start the press conference with Marrone. I thought the Syracuse station might carry it, but it began playing CBS Sports Radio.
So I searched for any channel that might have carried the press conference. And I landed back on WGR. Unbelievably, I was able to hear the entire press conference and Marrone’s post-conference interview with SU grad Sal Capuccio after it on the Buffalo station almost 200 miles from home.
I was impressed by Marrone’s public relations ability to do what the best coaches do best – avoid answering just about anything. It helped that he had plausible deniability about the future of Bills’ current players because he just got hired and hadn’t seen the film of their play yet.
Marrone also ably handled a question about his supposed “thin-skin,” a label apparently given to him by a well-respected Syracuse columnist, Bud Poliquin. Marrone denied having a thin skin – sort of – but added he highly respected Poliquin, who is a very good columnist.
My immediate thought was this guy might be able to handle anything Buffalo News sports columnists Bucky Gleason or Jerry Sullivan send his way.
Marrone also was very personable in his softball interview with Capuccio, who somewhat understandably sounded more like a fan than a journalist.
As the Marrone interview ended, I began losing WGR. I think I was 30 minutes past Binghamton at the time.
I never knew that WGR had such audience reach. I suppose that was further evidence that WHLD doesn’t stand a chance of making a dent in WGR’s popularity no matter how much some listeners hate Mike Schoop. In my heart, I wish that wasn’t the case. But fans of Syracuse and the Bills know the cold-hearted fact that what you want to happen rarely does happen in football and in life.