Here at South Stands Denver dot com our enormous staff of trained observers has collaborated to crown 2017’s Denver sports media champions.”
The year of our Lord 2017 will soon cease to be the year that is and become the year that was. It was a crazy one on a lot of fronts including the Denver sports scene. We saw the Broncos go from world beaters to missing the playoffs to becoming among the worst teams in football; we saw the Colorado Rockies come within a play-in win of baseball’s post-season and the Nugs and Avs add and subtract pieces in an efforts to reclaim glory. Meanwhile, fans consumed news and commentary from myriad sports media outlets in the realms of radio television and print / web.
Here at South Stands Denver dot com our enormous staff of trained observers has collaborated to crown 2017’s Denver sports media champions. Okay, that’s a lie. I, Colin Daniels, have unilaterally and haphazardly compiled this list of the best and worst of the past year in Denver sports media. Don’t @ me.
And without further ado (what is “ado”, anyway?), here are your 2017 South Stands Denver sports media awards:
WTF transaction of the year: Orange and Blue 760
Not long before the Broncos began training camp this year it was announced that the team would partner (in a 50/50 split) to take over AM 760, converting it from Denver Sport 760 to Orange and Blue 760, “all Broncos, all the time”. The transaction filled precisely zero need in the Denver radio market since 104.3 the Fan already had essentially the same mundane all-football format. Nonetheless a new team-owned station was born and while it’s nifty that talented people like Ryan Edwards, Andrew Mason and Andy Lindahl now have radio homes it’s difficult to understand the appeal of one more outlet ignoring the non-football sports in a five-sport town.
Best next Irv and Joe: Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro, Mile High Sports
If you don’t know who Irv and Joe are ask Alexa, you useless youthful menace. If you do know who Irv and Joe are and wonder who can possibly take their places as Denver’s premier crotchety old men look no further than Eric and Les – the modern, Jewish answer to the legendary radio duo, drive-times 4-6 PM on Mile High Sports radio.
The Cam the Ram award for huge balls: Renaud Notaro and Dan Jacobs, Mile High Sports
There are certain sports stories that most outlets in Denver simply won’t touch – but, like Vance Joseph, Renaud Notaro and Dan Jacobs aren’t afraid to rub their boners against those stories. One such story is that of the aforementioned Denver Broncos’ head coach and his sexual proclivities while an assistant coach at CU. Another is the mishandling (cover up) of domestic abuse allegations at the same school. There’s nothing sacracint to these guys. Catch their show, the Final Verdict, on Mile High Sports Radio Monday through Thursday from 6-8 PM.
Most infuriating castration: 104.3 the Fan / Sandy Clough
Denver Post media columnist Dusty Saunders once referred to Sand Clough as a “sports essayist”. I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s heart-breaking that Denver’s most talented and well-prepared sports radio voice has been castrated by being commanded only to talk Broncos. Fact is, the Broncos suck donkey butt this season and Clough happens to be really, really good at discussing baseball, basketball and hockey. Set him, free, 104.3 the Fan. Give the man his balls back.
The JonBenet Ramsey award for unexplained disappearance: Tom Nalen
One day he was there and the next day he was gone. Tom Nalen, the Ring of Famer and former co-host of the fantastic Nalen and Kreckman show on Altitude 950, just up and decided one day that he didn’t want to do radio anymore. Radio listeners lost one of the most insightful sports talkers in town and certainly the most unfiltered. And such as.
Best female sports talk radio personality: Julie Browman
Julie Browman is very skilled. She has lots of radio experience both in Denver and in San Diego. She has been a host and a producer and has also worked extensively in television – and continues to as a studio host for Altitude TV. I enjoy her as Scott Hastings’ mid-day sidekick on Altitude 950. Sadly, though, Julie takes this prize by default. With Susie Wargin now rocking a mic at a music station Jullie is the sole female in Denver sports talk radio. That’s something that needs to change.
Best Sports talk radio personality: Nate Kreckman, Altitude 950
Nate Kreckman has at one time or another possessed a critical time slot at nearly every sports radio station in town, including at Mile High Sports where he was the only salaried talent at the time. There’s a reason that Kreckman is always in demand: he’s incredibly talented. Kreckman’s delivery is light and relatable. He’s quick witted and funny with just the right amount of snark. He also has a reputation as one of the smartest and hardest working hosts in the market. He could easily be in national syndication.
Best sports talk radio duo: Big Al and Dmac, 104.3 the Fan
Now that Irv and Joe are no longer together Alfred “Big Al” Williams and Darren “Dmac” McKee are Denver’s longest-running sports talk radio duo and still its best. Their personas contrast perfectly which spawns enjoyable banter day after day. Their show is also the ballsiest one at the Fan when it comes to broaching certain issues that team PR departments would rather it not. Nobody is even close to bumping these guys off their throne.
Sports talk “Iron Man” award: Cecil Lammey, 104.3 the Fan
A young podcaster and blogger I know once asked Cecil Lammey for his advice on getting into sports talk radio. Cecil answered “just keep grinding”. And grind he does. Lammey hosts a 1-hour weekday show with Mike Pritchard (9-10 am) each day on the Fan but he’s an integral part of every program on the station. As the Fan’s “Broncos Insider” Cecil does guest spots from morning until night and fills in nearly anytime another host gets a sniffle. The only person heard more on the radio in Denver is David Shamansky.
Best sports talk radio “bit”: The Friday Fire Up, Big Al and Dmac, 104.3 the Fan
Every Friday at 5pm sharp Big Al and Dmac field phone calls from screaming, shouting maniacal Broncos fans who don’t seem to mind that the team is lousy this year. The guys rant and rave along with the callers while loud rock and club music cranks and listeners get “fired up” for the coming game. It’s pure unadulterated fun for the whole family.
Best call-in guest: Adam Mares, Denver Stiffs
Denver Stiffs, an SB Nation site named after an old Dog Moe phrase, has offered Nuggets fans a fantastic community setting since it was founded by Andrew Feinstein (who originally named it firegeorgekarl.com). Adam Mares has become the new voice of Denver Stiffs as the host of the Hooked on Nuggets podcast and as a frequent contributor to various sports talk radio shows. He always rewards the listener with something new – some unique angle on the team.
Best radio play by play announcer: Marc Moser, Altitude Radio (Avalanche)
I often say that among the four major professional sports in Denver hockey enjoys the best local broadcasts. Marc Moser is one big reason. He has a fantastic voice and his game call is positively electric. Moser makes even mundane games sound like game seven of the Stanley Cup final. Flipping on the car radio to find Moser on the call is like coming upon Stairway to Heaven right as it’s hitting its rockin’ crescendo. And as we wind on down the road …
Best in-game radio duo: Jack Corrigan and Jerry Schemmel, 850 KOA
When i’m in the mood to relax with a cool beverage and listen to a baseball game on a warm summer afternoon I thank God above for Jack and Jerry. They’ve been doing games together on KOA for a little over seven years and it’s hard to imagine Rockies baseball without them. I even listen to Jack and Jerry when i’m at the ballpark.
Best talk show: The Vic Lombardi Show, Altitude 950
The very simple objective of any sports talk radio show is to make being a fan more fun for fans. It’s shocking how few shows get that right. One that does is the the Vic Lombardi show. Former CBS 4 sports anchor Vic Lombardi, a small man, famously migrated to Altitude two years ago. Mile High Sports co-founder James Merilatt wasn’t far behind. Merilatt divested his MHS equity to become the program director on the newish AM station. Lombardi and Merilatt along with millennial Will Peterson make up the lively morning program, 7-10 AM weekdays. The show genuinely covers the entire wide world of Denver sports. College, Rockies, Avs, Nugs and Broncos get almost equal time. The hosts mix in just enough pop culture and guy talk also.
Station of the Year – Altitude 950
Stan Kroenke purchased AM 950 in Spring of 2016 and dubbed it KKSE. Under the tutelage of program director James Merilatt KKSE began to assemble a talk lineup to accompany the Avalanche and Nuggets game broadcasts. That lineup is now in full-swing and it’s excellent. In addition to the Vic Lombardi show Altitude 950 features Scott Hastings with Julie Browman, Mark Moser (solo) and Nate Kreckman with Ryan Harris for a solid offering in every important time slot. Listeners benefit from the wide range of subject matter on Denver’s “All-Sports” station. It’s not just another nauseating all-Broncos all-the-time outlet like the rest. Also, the talent at Altitude 950 is given a refreshing amount of leeway to criticise the company teams.
The “don’t let the door hit you in the ass” award for good riddance: Drew Soicher
Ding, dong the witch is dead. Yes, Drew Soicher (who somehow held onto his Channel 9 sports anchor gig long enough to block the entire city on Twitter) is Phoenix’s problem now. Rumor has it the genius behind such inspired bits as “Drew’s Clues” and “Drew of False” fled after Nick the Sea Lion came forward with sexual assault allegations. Soicher needed and entire box van just to contain his ridiculous bobblehead collection. Enjoy those 110 degree July days, dick.
The Drew Soicher memorial award for biggest tool: Mike Klis, 9 News
Whether he’s (accidentally) publically admonishing Broncos’ PR with “don’t confirm to Nicki” or re-breaking the scoops of “local bloggers” as his own stories, Mike Klis’ old-media sense of entitlement is quite a thing to observe in the internet age. It’s fitting that he should slide into Soicher’s old spot at 9 News because he has certainly assumed his role as a disrespectful prick.
Best local TV sport anchor: Lionel Bienvenu
This was a tough category for me because I don’t watch the TV news. So I asked my wife and she recommended Lionel Beinvenu – her new favorite now that Drew Soicher is gone. Yes, she liked Drew Soicher. So her opinion may not hold much water – however I did look at photos of all the local sports anchors and I decided that I wanted to punch this one in the face the least. So congratulations, Lionel Bienvenu. Keep up the good work.
Best TV studio analyst: Mark Rycroft, Altutide TV (Avalanche)
Mark Rycroft was a hockey hero at the University of Denver and with the Colorado Avalanche long before he joined the broadcast team at Altitude TV. His playing experience along with his razor-sharp wit and willingness to be genuinely critical of his favorite team make him a fantastic studio analyst. He also happens to be a genuinely great guy.
Best sideline reporter: Lauren Gardner, Altitude TV (Avalanche)
Lauren Gardner refers to herself as a “nerd” but she’s actually an accomplished broadcaster with a lengthy resume including stints with MTV and CBS sports. As a member of the Avalanche broadcast team Lauren handles sideline and interview duties masterfully. She’s also involved with the fantasy football show on Altitude TV. Her stunning looks and signature red hair make her immediately recognizable and her talent makes her memorable.
Best pre / post game TV analyst: Jenny Cavnar, AT&T Sports Net (Rockies)
It’s no secret among my Twitter followers that I have a boyish crush on Jenny Cavnar; but that’s not why I chose her for this award category. I chose Jenny Cavnar because she’s really, really good at what she does. She has an impressive baseball background dating back to childhood and it shows. Cavnar garners the respect of her fellow broadcasters and of the Rockies players. She’s a local kid, too, which is even better.
Best TV play by play announcer: Drew Goodman, AT&T Sports Net (Rockies)
I’ll be honest, I hated Drew Goodman as a sports talk radio host but I have come to love him as a play by play broadcaster. Goodman has covered the NFL on a national level and the Nuggets locally but he has really found his place announcing baseball games. Along with KOA’s “Jack and Jerry” Goodman is one of the voices of summer in Colorado. Goodman is a real asset to the local broadcasting scene.
Best TV color analyst: Scott Hastings, Altitude TV (Nuggets)
Scott Hastings played in the NBA for Knicks, Hawks, Heat, Pistons and Nuggets during a decade-long career. Thankfully he settled in Denver. In addition to being a long-time sports talk radio host in our market (he spent 12 years co-hosting KOA’s Sports Zoo with Dave Logan before moving to the Fan and later Altitude 950) Hastings brings an insider’s expertise to his color calls of Nuggets games on Altitude TV. Fans especially enjoy his non-stop complaining about the officials.
Most improved television personality: Ally Sturm, Altitude TV (Nuggets)
When Ally Sturm fist joined the Altitude TV broadcast team covering the Nuggets last season I was critical of her performance. I saw her as sort of a “giggle girl” more well suited to in-game entertainment than television broadcasting. I have been impressed, however, with her improvement from last season to this season. She seems to understand the NBA better and she’s less likely to mispronounce player names. It’s still hilarious to see the teeny-tiny Sturm interviewing seven-foot tall basketball players but nonetheless I have to hand it to her – she has grown into her role in many ways.
Print and Web
Costliest Tweet: Terry Frei
This Memorial Day (former) Denver Post columnist Terry Frei Tweeted “Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend.” Oops. I have Tweeted some terrible shit in my day but I can do that. I don’t work for the man. Sadly, now Terry Frei doesn’t either. The Denver Post terminated him instantly. A thirty-year career ended in less than 140 characters and the Post was able to save itself a big chunk of salary.
Best NFL reporter: Benjamin Allbright, Mile High Sports
Benjamin Allbright is an enigma. I really don’t know who he is or where he came from or how he manages to earn a living covering the NFL but what I do know is that if he makes a definitive statement regarding any pro football story I can take it to the bank. Somehow, somewhere the kid has sources and when he scoops Mike Klis it is a thing of beauty.
Best Broncos beat reporter: Nicki Jabvalhala, Denver Post
Naturally, the top beat reporter in the market covering the Broncos is the one working for the Denver Post. The paper did well replacing Lindsay H Jones, who advanced to USA Today, with Jabvalhala. She’s an upbeat, bright and hard working reporter who represents the paper and the team faithfully.
Best Avalanche beat reporter: Adrian Dater, BSN Denver
Adrian Dater is enjoying a second incarnation as an Avs writer after his illustrious Denver Post career came to an embarrassing end in 2014. Dater was the Post’s Avalanche beat guy for almost twenty years – since 1995 when the Nordiques first moved to Denver. He gave it all up, though, when he harassed a juicy young hockey fan on Twitter. Three years later, after a stint with Bleacher report, the one-time hater of bloggers is the biggest name at the biggest local sports blog in the region.
Best Nuggets beat reporter: Harrison Wind, BSN Denver
Harrison Wind isn’t the only baby-faced reporter at BSN Denver who outworks people but he is the one on the Nuggets beat. As part of an outstanding team, Wind pumps out Nuggets pieces at an astounding rate and he covers all the angles. Nice kid, too. If you’re not reading Harrison Wind you’re not up to speed on the Nugs.
Best Rockies beat reporter: Jake Shapiro, BSN Denver
Like his colleague mentioned for the last award, Jake Shapiro is a content machine with a deep love for sports. His chosen sport is baseball and he knows more about it than anybody his age should. He’s a poorly-adjusted savant who covers the Colorado Rockies like a catcher’s mitt for Brandon Spano’s BSN Denver.
Best Denver sports columnist: Mark Kiszla, Denver Post
There aren’t a whole lot of honest-to-goodness sports columnists left in Denver these days. It’s a one-paper town and that paper has a dwindling budget. Columnists write columns – as in newspaper columns – and the internet scene has done a poor job of replicating that. But Mark Kiszla doesn’t win by default. He wins because you love to hate him and you hate him because he does a damn good job. Trolls don’t only come from the web, you guys.
Best news outlet: BSN Denver
Brandon Spano may never have gotten BSN Denver off the ground had the radio station he was hosting for, Mile High Sports, hadn’t been “between signals” for weeks on end. While it was off-air Spano spent his time developing a vision for a wordpress site that would have more writers and cover more sports better than the Denver Post. I confess that at the time I thought it was pie in the sky bullshit. It wasn’t. While he is nowhere close to content, Brandon Spano is very proud of what he has created – and for good reason.
Best internet personality: Brandon Perna
In the course of a few Broncos seasons film-maker, comedian and sports lover Brandon Perna has become a darling of Denver through his YouTube channels “That’s good Sports” and “That’s good Broncos”. Perna is hilarious and his work ethic is second to none. My man cranks out vid after vid after vid. Someday some outlet is going to slap a paycheck in front of Brandon and say “be ours”. Until then he’s everybody’s.
Best Podcast: South Stands LIVE!
Come on, did you seriously think I wasn’t going to take this opportunity to fluff my own shit? Give me a break. When it comes to podcasting the great John Reidy, Producer Captain Fantasy and I have been doing it longer and harder than anybody and, while we’re not in the studio as often as we should be, when we do lay down a track it’s a must-listen. Just ask that hack Captain Bronco or the amateurs over at Colorado Sports Guys.
Best Twitter follow: @JohnReidy303
Yeah, that’s right, more stroking of the South Stands brand. Shameful, right? But in all seriousness there’s no better Twitter account in Denver than @JohnReidy303 for biting sports and culture commentary. By the way, he prefers retweets to likes.