The Puget Sound SportScape is intended to be a series of stories about the changing dynamics of the sports entertainment dollar in the Greater Puget Sound. After several decades as a three sport town, our landscape is changing.
Sports fans are losing the Sonics, gaining Sounders FC, the economy at best isn't great. All of the major sports are having their worst seasons in recent memory and oddly enough minor league sports are in transition/expanding recently as well.
This series will talk to people in Business, Marketing, Media Old and New about how the changes in the Puget Sound SportScape will effect the coverage of sports, their marketing or their gameday experience.
Next up in this series is an phone interview with Dick Fain; update guy, host of the 4th Quarter and Varsity Sports Live. Dick is also basically their top fill-in host appearing in just about every time slot when vacations and illnesses arise.
Some disclosure here, I worked on and off with Fain for nearly three years both as his intern and as the producer of several shows he hosted.
This time the series appears as a Question and Answer.
Q: As a host and news reporter at KJR-AM how do you see the change in Seattle's sports landscape effecting your listener-ship? Particularly the loss of the Sonics and likely reduction in interest in the NBA?
Feeling out process for the sports fan. Once the Sounders start, we might not include them in our day to day conversations, but we will not ignore the Sounders. It will be up to the fans more so than the hosts how much we talk Sounders. We will have guests, they will be treated like a major league franchise.
Already a reduction of interest in the NBA. The NBA is all but dead here [as a topic], and has been for a couple of years. While the Seattle sports fan wants a team, there isn't any indication that the fans want to spend air-time talking about the general NBA.
Q: Do you see an opportunity to cover the Trailblazers more?
Softy will have a weekly show with Brandon Roy. That wouldn't happen if he played for Houston, but because he's in Portland and they are a team that could make the Western Conference Finals this year. That's much earlier than anyone anticipated.
Q: How much on-air attention will the return of Seattle University to NCAA Division One Basketball be receiving?
They will have growing interest, mostly from myself (I do Seattle U games), Groz and Gas. They played tough against LA-Tech and San Diego State and that will get them press. It will continue, but be 4-5 years down the road before they get coverage like the Huskies.
Q: Will the rather mediocre performance of the Mariners effect how KJR-AM Seattle addresses Spring Training?
Spring Training could be more interesting than in the past with the new GM, manager and the roster overhaul... people might be more interested in it. There might even be position battles.
We will have a reporter down there as usual. Gas will be down there for his week as he's done for some time.
Q: Will coverage of Seattle Sounders FC be determined by attendance or their performance on the field?
If Sounders fans want more soccer talk, I would suggest they listen for the openings when the hosts bring up the Sounders and hammer those phone lines. Force the hosts to learn... but if we open the door and no one calls we won't talk about the sport as much, just as has occurred with the NBA
Q: How do you feel your competition in print, radio and television will be addressing the changing nature of sports in Seattle?
I think that the fringe sports like high school and small college sports are going to be covered less by the newspapers. They are in a mode of cutting.
As for KIRO sports, I don't know what their plan is. Are they going to be local talk or play-by-play with a national focus? We'll have to find out.
The general takeaways from this can break down to just a few simple nuggets.
-Attendance will guaruntee that at least some hosts at KJR-AM will pay attention to Sounders FC here, probably it will get more attention than the Storm, but less than the Mariners, Seahawks, Huskies or Cougars, but certainly Seattle U, Eastern Wa, any hockey.
-But if there isn't fan interest the talk will fade away. The fans must keep it as a compelling topic.
-Dick and I also talked about the Seattle Soccer Show and Gaschk's role with the station
He's our go to guy when it comes to soccer
-David Stern's NBA is quite simply broken.
Fan support will be as important as performance on the field for Seattle Sounders FC to be any more than the 5th most important brand in sports in this city.