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Calls Of the Wild
Austin Murphy
September 16, 1996
In the cutthroat world of sports talk radio, the voices that are heard these days are increasingly savage
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September 16, 1996

Calls Of The Wild

In the cutthroat world of sports talk radio, the voices that are heard these days are increasingly savage

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Actually, Butch doesn't listen so much as monitor, waiting for someone to slip up or say something parochial. Nothing gets him on the phone faster than hearing a WEEI host shill for a New England team. Butch is an enthusiastic Roger Clemens basher. "The guy's a crap-shoot. You never know who you're gonna get: Clemens or Bluto," Butch says of the Boston Red Sox pitcher. Nor is Butch sold on New England Patriots coach Bill Parcells. "He's not a New York guy—he's a Jersey guy," Butch says. "We used to wait for guys like him to come over the bridge on Friday night."

Butch has a valuable ally in Ordway, who assumed his post in May 1995. Having inherited an ill-considered lineup of hosts who dwelled too long on sports minutiae and spent too much time taking calls, Ordway laid down new ground rules: more irreverence, less nostalgia—"We don't do dead guys," he says—and fewer calls.

That hasn't hurt Butch. He spreads his calls around. You hear him every so often on WEAN, whose signal he pulls in "clear as a bell" on the Cape. He's also a regular on The Fabulous Sports Babe. Butch recently answered a reporter's phone call with a question: "Can you call back in 10 minutes? I'm on the other line with the Sports Babe."

The Babe's real name is Nanci Donnellan, and her syndicated show can be heard on 215 stations, including KTIK in Boise, where one of her avid listeners is Boise State defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Barry Sacks, with whom I shared a row on that aforementioned flight from San Diego. "Butch from the Cape?" Sacks said once we got talking. "You know Butch from the Cape?"

Around the time Butch is ordering his fourth or fifth cold one, we wonder whether he is a fan of Ferrall on the Bench host Scott Ferrall, the guttural-sounding Generation X, Mothers Against Drunk Driving whipping boy who dispenses information and opinions at auctioneer speed and who, like Butch, enjoys an occasional ale.

Ferrall actually knows a ton about sports, but he manages to obscure his expertise by giving the impression that he would rather be talking about when he'll be getting his next buzz on. Listeners' requests for a beer (or a "brewski," in Ferrall-speak) are met with the sound of a beverage being poured.

After idly wondering last Friday if it could somehow be arranged for the eye of Hurricane Fran to go over his sister's house, Ferrall observed, apropos of nothing, "People don't like me." True—they either love him or hate him. Earlier this year Ferrall's show was thrown off both KNBR in San Francisco and XTRA after on-air tirades concerning, respectively, scheduling and the unavailability of UCLA basketball coach Jim Harrick for an interview. Now, though, his show, broadcast out of Westwood One studios in Los Angeles, is syndicated on 76 stations (having gained 14 in the past six months), including WFAN. Station managers cringe at his glorification of alcohol but love the huge ratings he pulls from the 18-to-24 frat-boy set.

Butch is no frat boy. "I like how he pours everyone a beer," says Butch. "But I can't understand him. It sounds like he's always clearing his throat."

Like Butch from the Cape, the Mayor of Poway is not monogamous in his talk-radio relationships. Recently he called the Sports Fan Radio Network in Las Vegas to scold ignoramuses who underestimate the difficulty of golf; then he phoned XTRA to offer condolences to Steve Hartman on the passing of Hartman's former midafternoon partner, Chet Forte, who suffered a fatal heart attack on May 18. The Mayor concluded his eulogy: "I don't want to belabor Chet's memory, but I guess it's in his honor that I bring it up, so I guess it's not a belabor."

Clearly moved, Adidas director of basketball and emergency Forte replacement Sonny Vaccaro could only say, "That's super. That's super."

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