Three guys sit around talking about the need for instant replay in baseball and possible game fixing in the NBA. They’re talking about allegations that Brett Favre used his cell phone to send a woman a picture of his penis.
And, of course, they’re talking about football.
Five days a week, the guys huddle in a man cave on West Flamingo Road. Their castle for two hours a day is a radio studio at Lotus Broadcasting, and Southern Nevada sports fans are listening, calling and texting.
Mitch Moss, Paul Howard and Seat Williams get paid to talk. They’re professional sports talkers who slip in chat about women, movies and dating — even socialite Paris Hilton.
“Would anyone miss her if she was gone?” Howard, 33, a native of St. Cloud, Minn., wonders aloud.
No one takes Hilton’s side, and that was before she was busted for possessing cocaine.
The trio, along with producer Clay Baker, comprise the cast of “Afternoon Gridlock,” a program that airs from noon to 2 p.m. weekdays on KWWN-AM (1100).
About 120 hours of locally produced sports talk radio can be heard on seven stations every week in Southern Nevada.
“Gridlock” is followed an hour later each day by “D.C. and the Sunshine Man” — Dave Cokin and Steve Cofield — for three hours. Those two programs are the top shows of their kind in the market. “Gridlock,” according to Moss, averages about 40,000 daily listeners and attracts about 400 text messages an hour and scores of calls each day.
Among men 25 to 54 years old, all-sports station KWWN, which airs several ESPN national shows, ranks No. 1 for AM stations, according to Scarborough Research, which measures media habits of adult consumers and provides information to the Review-Journal.
KWWN and its sister station, KBAD-AM (920), dominate ratings and hours of local sport talk in Southern Nevada. These two stations account for nearly half of weekly sports talk. That’s a lot of locally produced airtime for a city that does not have a major professional team and has a college football team that generates little positive talk.
“It’s different for us because we don’t have a major league sports franchise,” says Cokin, 57, who has been involved with sports radio since 1987. He said the hottest local topic is the UNLV men’s basketball team, adding that Rebels football doesn’t generate much interest.
Cokin, a sports bettor and handicapper, says listeners really aren’t focused on UNLV at this time of year.
“Rebels football, no; Rebels basketball, yes,” Cokin says. “(The football team) will have to produce before there’s much interest.”
Moss says it would be better for his show if there was a successful local team during this time of year, but the lack of such a team opens doors for “Gridlock” to reach a broader audience.
“It’s good to talk about national topics that a lot more people care about,” he says, explaining how many listeners are not native Las Vegans and have allegiances to teams around the country.
What makes this market unique is legal sports betting, and that’s not lost on local radio stations’ general managers.
Sports betting accounts for about one-fifth of the hours of programming each week. That doesn’t include time spent on other shows when sports betting is discussed.
One of the most popular betting programs is Brian Blessing’s “Sports Book Radio” that airs each weekday from 2 to 3 p.m. on KWWN. Blessing, in his second year with the show, spent 25 years in Buffalo, N.Y., covering sports as a television and radio anchor and reporter. He has devoted his career to sports betting since moving to Las Vegas in 2005.
“Our show on 1100 is to promote sports wagering in a proper light and get as much information out there as we can for the bettors,” he says.
At this time of year, that means football.
“It’s amazing. (NFL) is king, and college football has really made great strides,” Blessing says. “There is so much to talk about. There are days when an hour isn’t nearly enough.”
The new kid on the sports radio dial is KXNT-FM (100.5), which switched to a sports format on weekends in August. Program director Bob Agnew says because the demand for sports radio is so high in Southern Nevada, the move ”made too much sense.”
The balance of weekend programming on Agnew’s FM station is national talk from the Sports USA Radio Network, Notre Dame football and a national college game of the week on Saturdays. Two NFL games are broadcast on Sundays.
It can be challenging to come up with hot topics most of the year, but it is a no-brainer in the fall.
“Football is the sport no matter where you are,” says Scott Masteller, the ESPN senior director of radio content. KWWN is an affiliate of ESPN, which also owns and operates stations in five major markets. “Part of our challenge is finding what the market wants — what the fans want.”
Moss says Las Vegas ranks highest in NFL interest excluding markets with NFL teams. But what Las Vegas has that most others don’t is legalized sports betting.
“Casinos seem to always build their promotional budgets around football time with remotes and giveaways,” Moss says.
Adds Masteller: “Football is a male soap opera. People can’t get enough football. There’s always some storyline that drives conversation, and that drives opinion and reaction.”
But sports talk radio is not just about sports.
“We aren’t afraid to be relatable to the audience with our personal lives,” Moss says. “Relatable is the key word.”
“Guy talk” is as critical to the format as the latest betting lines.
Moss, 33, yearns to do play-by-play for the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team some day. But until then, he’ll settle for working this year’s Las Vegas Locomotives games in the United Football League. Not quite the majors, but it’s a step up from doing high school football around Fall Creek, Wis., where he began his radio career.
Howard has been able to blend his fascination with Howard Cosell and Howard Stern; he can be caustic like Cosell, irreverent like Stern.
It probably is a bit of the “shock jock” that led him to list “widowed” as his relationship status on his Facebook page. He never has been married.
“I just thought it would be funny,” he says.
Funny, maybe; bizarre, certainly. But it’s a glimpse of the trio’s persona.
Like Moss’ Facebook entry for favorite websites: He lists YouTube.com and YouPorn.com, the latter of which certainly is a guy thing.
Then there’s Williams, who has been on Las Vegas radio since 1983. Howard calls him the “Black Fonzie,” and the San Diego native brings a perspective foreign to his Midwest partners.
“I grew up in the inner-city ghetto, and that brings a different (flavor) to the show,” says Williams, whose first Las Vegas radio gig was at KUNV-FM (91.5) on the UNLV campus. He considers himself to be “blessed” for being with Lotus Broadcasting for 19 years.
He has seen sports talk change greatly in content and technology.
“More of the guy talk started about 10 years ago. That’s when it became more than sports talk and became more what guys talk about around the water cooler,” Williams says.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at email@example.com or 702-383-0247.