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"When I started, I had just broken a story about University of Tennessee football," he says. "They'd been holding themselves up as the model program, and I wrote an article saying they'd committed a lot of rules violations. I felt like the most hated man in the state."
That was three years ago, and at first, virtually all of the calls to Miller's show were from people who wanted to blast him—some of them literally. "We had a guy who said he was going to shoot me right through the studio window," Miller says. "I was looking both ways when I left work at night."
Gradually, Miller built a following by making some of his regulars into characters. There was Tony, who won every trivia contest in which the questions were about baseball. "There just isn't anything he doesn't know about baseball," Miller says. "He even knows all there is to know about the Atlanta Braves, the worst team in baseball and the one whose games we broadcast. Every time Tony called, his bird was chirping in the background."
And then there was the Captain, an authority on NASCAR; Mr. Redskin, who knows pro football; Mr. Golf; and Dr. Basketball, who, Miller claims, picked winners in the SEC, against the spread, with 91% success last season.
Dr. Basketball, who started out as one of Miller's occasional guests, became such a presence on the show that Miller invited him to appear with him when he did remote shows from various sports bars. Dr. Basketball arrived in fluorescent tights, a cape and a mask, trailed by several dazzling women and a couple of bodyguards.
Dr. Basketball is a tall man who once challenged the basketball coach at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga to compare 1040s as a way of determining who knew more about basketball. Like Miller's other regular characters, Dr. Basketball remained a fixture on the show after Miller left—he's now a cohost.
Last year, when Miller and some of his callers decided the UTC athletic department needed new leadership, they instituted a watch on the athletic director, Harold Wilkes. Listeners were encouraged to call in sightings of the AD in order to establish how he spent his time.
Miller says, "We got calls from people saying, 'You know, I saw Wilkes just this afternoon, at the Country Place restaurant, and he spent three hours just scratching and laughing and chewing tobacco with these other two ol' boys. Now that just ain't getting it done.' "
This unsavory business went on for about six months, according to Miller. Wilkes says he knew of it only because friends told him—"I never listened to that show," he says, "and I've never met David Miller"—and both he and UTC claim it had nothing to do with his subsequent resignation. After 20 years as AD, he says, he felt "it was time for somebody else to come in."
Goodwill, obviously, didn't drive Miller's show. "Down here, it is college football first, college football recruiting second and, after that, everything else," he says. During baseball season "we cut back to an hour, instead of two. Even so, it was hard going some nights. So I'd start a show by saying, 'You know, the Atlanta Braves are never going to get there until they do something. They have just got to trade Dale Murphy.' And right away, the switchboard would light up." Murphy finally was traded, to the Phillies in August, leaving one less issue to provoke the Chattanooga listeners.