DMA 7-22 Sports

November 19, 2009 11:50 AM

Baltimore Sports Talk: Beer, Brats and Ravens

Mason Show.jpg

The Derrick Mason Show: Mason, right, and Stan White (Photo: AP/Baltimore Sun)

The Ravens' 16-0 victory over the hapless Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football Nov. 16 falls under the category of "a win is a win."

Nice to get the shutout, but, as badly as the Browns played, Baltimore fans awakened Tuesday morning with a NFL hangover, clamoring instead for 40-0 win and still unsure of the Ravens' playoff chances despite a respectable 5-4 record at this point in the season. After barely losing to eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game last season, this was to be Baltimore's year. It still might be, but the Bengals have trumped that notion so far in the brutal AFC North.

When the Browns game ended, all the Ravens sports talk began anew for the week - though not so much by rambling talk-show hosts and analysts, but by Ravens players themselves on the radio.

Football players in all markets have radio shows, but the Ravens have to be some of the "talkingest" players in the league, leaving some fans in Baltimore to wonder whether the players are excelling too much over the airwaves and too little on the field. One caller complained Tuesday to a talking-head sports show about the Ravens players' penchant for radio that "they really talk a lot. They need to put up or shut up."

Baltimore is a hokey media town -- where sports talk radio seems to revolve around bars, booze, brats and usually unintelligible, good old boy discourse. Ravens talk is fervent year round in Baltimore with no fewer than four mopey radio stations in town grasping for every piece of audience and advertising dollar they can find, and it is a poison Ravens players seem to enjoy drinking.

Unlike in the Washington media market and sports talk programs like the "John Thompson Show," Baltimore lacks a level of sophistication, testimony supposedly of the city's working-class, up-from-the bootstraps demeanor. Pro football, indeed, is a rough-and-tumble activity, but in Baltimore, does there always have to be a beer in the house to get the talk going?

There can't be many towns where pro football players dominate the airwaves like these Ravens - typically from an overflowing out-of-the-way restaurant and lounge. Derrick Mason and the gang will have to judge someday whether these weekly forums before slobbering yokels is the best way to build personal marketshare and solidify their brands. Baltimore's top dog, Ray Lewis, no longer does a weekly, beer-scene show.

Mason's "Monday Night Live Show with Derrick Mason" on Ravens flagship station WBAL Radio is the most high profile show of them all. The venue, with former Baltimore Colts linebacker and Ravens broadcaster Stan White, is BlueStore Seafood Grille & Fishmarket in the Baltimore suburb of Timonium. Mason gets raves reviews for his show, including his adept handling of commercial breaks and station IDs.

Of all the Ravens shows, Mason's is probably the most gifted because. There actually is inside football talk going on amid the conviviality -- rather than simply having to hear a player go on for 10 minutes about his favorite rap artist and movie star. You listen and you just want to hear serious football talk, not the buzzed out guzzler who comes to the microphone simply to heap praises on the player or ask some useless personal question.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh headlines "The John Harbaugh Show," also on WBAL Radio every Tuesday evening during the regular season. Thankfully, the Harbaugh show comes from the studio - as is traditional for pro coaches discussing the previous week's game, injury report and next opponent.

But move over to the FM side of the dial and things go a plunder. At 105.7 The Fan you will find reserve Ravens QB Troy Smith on Mondays from the Greene Turtle in Westminster, MD (where fans can enjoy $2 Miller Lite & MGD bottles and $3 Blue Moon Drafts). Then on Wednesdays on The Fan, there is the "A-to-Z" show with special teamers Brendon Ayanbadejo or Tom Zbikowski from Catches Restaurant and Crab House in White Marsh, MD. Then there is T-Sizzle's show, where backer Terrell Suggs waxes it up with fans at Buffalo Wings and Beer in Glen Burnie, MD. "Enjoy great wings an beer while talking football with Terrell or one of his guests," goes the marketing. And on Friday nights on The Fan, you get running back Ray Rice or celebrated rookie lineman Michael Oher from the Diamondback Tavern in Ellicott City, MD.

No wonder Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio squashed QB David Garrard's Friday weekly radio show as a team distraction a few weeks ago. Garrard's show, consisting of meeting with fans, answering questions, giving away tickets and previewing upcoming games, "makes no sense," Del Rio, a former Ravens' assistant, snapped.

To boot, each of the Ravens shows brings in teammates as guests for a slaphappy time but usually no serious football talk. And if that is not enough, Baltimore radio is highly populated too with ex-Ravens regularly filling the airwaves: Jonathan Ogden, Wally Williams, Mike Flynn, Kyle Richardson, Qadry Ismail, Edwin Mulitalo, Spencer Folau, Brad Jackson, et al.

Clearly, the shows are popular, judging by some of heft from advertising sponsors, including an automobile dealership, bank, home improvement company, local newspaper and the state of Maryland. Indeed, those tight ad dollars have the various radio stations fighting for ears, and it seems they will do anything to get them. That's Baltimore.

Granted, the Baltimore media market versus Washington is like night and day. But the simple half-hour of the "Clinton Portis Show" as part of the John Thompson program on WTEM ESPN 980 offers a serious football fix. Sure, the coach is a homer for the Georgetown, the Redskins and anything Washington, and, if you can stomach the chatty Rick "Doc" Walker, it makes you wish Baltimore radio was on a similar plane.

Sure, instead of Ravens' player shows, you could listen to news on NPR or classical music on some Mozart station. But you do want to hear from the players. Could we just "talk" football without the beer?

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