Posted: Saturday July 29, 2006 2:02AM; Updated: Saturday July 29, 2006 10:46PM
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PURGATORY -- I am forced to subsist only on radio these days. For the past three weeks, despite working for the parent company, I have lived in a world without cable television. The technicians keep promising to come but for now I reside on the boulevard of broken promises. Such hardship has provided only one bit of light: The all-radio Media Power Ranking for the month of July.
1. Mike and Murray, Sirius Satellite Radio
There's enough dreck and garbage on sports-talk radio to fill a Jersey landfill so when you hear voices offering measured thought and fact-based opinions, those voices tend to stand out. The best surprise of my non-cable universe was discovering this morning sports show on Sirius. I've long admired the work of Murray, a former ESPN Radio and Sporting News Radio alum who once anchored a show with Cowboys coach Bill Parcells and the late Will McDonough. What stood out about Murray then was that he never acted like a sycophant around Parcells; he asked pointed questions and made the show an interesting listen. He and co-host Mike Yam, a 20-something Fordham grad and a host at NBA-TV, have an engaging chemistry and give Sirius fans a sports alternative when Howard Stern is in commercial.
2. Bob Kemp, KDUS-AM (1060), Tempe
Four years ago The Sporting News Radio Network lost one of its best voices when overnight man Kemp resigned from the network. At the time I wrote in SI that Kemp was "an oasis of intelligence amid sports-talk cacophony." Like the No. 3 person on this list, Kemp gave you hope that the future of sports-talk wasn't heading the way of screamers, suck-ups and sycophants. While doing research for this piece, I was delighted to discover Kemp has been doing drive-time (The Sports Zone with Bob Kemp) in Tempe for the past four years. A Kemp diehard created a Web site to get the station to stream his show over the web. I can guarantee KDUS-AM they'll get at least one click from New York City if that happens.
3. Jeff Rickard, ESPN Radio
As I wrote two months ago, Rickard offers well thought and cogent commentary and his work shines out on a radio network where egos are large and slots are limited. He proves that you don't have to Morning Zoo-it-up or offer faux-tough guy talk to entertain an audience. If I ever convince Mark Cuban to form a radio sports network, he's on the short list for afternoon drive.
4. Bob Dylan, XM Radio
The Baseball Hall of Fame announced this month that it will display the May 24 baseball-themed episode from Dylan's weekly XM Satellite Radio show "Theme Time Radio Hour." On that memorable episode, which fell on the singer's birthday, Dylan sang an a cappella rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game and played some eclectic baseball tunes, from Joltin' Joe DiMaggio by Les Brown & His Orchestra to Newk's Fadeway (Sonny Rollins) to Wilco's rendition of Joe DiMaggio Done it Again. If Turner Sports wants to make a splash with an out-of-the-box baseball analyst, remember where you heard it first.
5. Jerry Rice, Sirius
Ex-athletes-turned-talk-show blowhards are a dime a dozen. Rare is the ex-jock who is able to remove himself from the game to ask questions (even one) that need to be asked. Rice and co-host Adam Shein recently interviewed Terrell Owens on the "The Afternoon Blitz" show on NFL Radio and I was impressed that Rice didn't automatically default into T.O. being T.O. mode. "You know that once you sign a contract you have to honor that contract," Rice told Owens. "And I don't disagree with you, I feel like you should be one of the highest paid receivers in the game. But don't you think when you called out management like that that was really only going to end up working against you?" (Owens' response: "Well, yeah, like I said, I realize the mistakes that I did make and some of the things that I said that I probably wish I could have taken back.")