When I was a kid, there was nothing better than watching football on Sundays with my dad and brother or sneaking in the living room to watch basketball when my brother had friends over. I enjoyed their commentary more than anything but over time, this grew into a genuine love for the game.
Over the years, my brother became known as something of a basketball expert in the city and eventually got the opportunity to host a sports talk radio show on KFAN 100.3 FM in Minneapolis. This was my introduction to sports talk and I immediately fell in love. I listened to just about every show featured on the station and would even call in to give my two cents on a topic every now and then. I learned that sports talk radio was so much more than breaking down the x’s and o’s of a given game. There was comedy and culture involved and I found it all highly entertaining.
Soon after being introduced to KFAN, one of my best friends told me to listen to the 2 Live Stews show. The Stews are two brothers (literally) who had a nationally syndicated sports talk show out of Atlanta. Doug and Ryan Stewart started each show to Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terror Dome” and, as members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., ended each show with George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog”. They instantly became staples in my day. I would schedule my entire day around The Stews. Yes, it was that serious.
When I started listening to The Stews, they had a 3 hour nationally syndicated show. These boys from Monck's Corner, SC kept their show lively with gut busting commentary and high energy discussion. The show completely centered around their listeners, or as they called them, “dogs and poodles”. It reminded me of sitting in the living room with my brother and his friends, listening to them debate the hot sports topics of the day. There were arguments, lots of jokes, and plenty of Hip Hop.
In 2007, The Stews branched out into TV, with recurring appearances on ESPN's "First Take" and their own TV One show "Black Men Revealed." The Stews were being seen and heard in more places than ever but they still lost their syndication deal with Sporting News Radio.
Atlanta-based radio station WQXI 790 The Zone, had been the radio home of The 2 Live Stews show since the show’s start in 2001. Within five years, The 2 Live Stews became the highest rated show on the station. Once The Stews lost syndication with Sporting News, fans outside the Atlanta area now had to listen to The Stews online at WQXI’s website.
Eventually, WQXI got a new Program Director who was less than enthused about the direction of The 2 Live Stews program. Suddenly, The Stews could no longer choose their own music. “Welcome to the Terrordome” and “Atomic Dog” were replaced with “Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera. Oh, the horror! Additionally, The Stews could no longer call their listeners “dogs and poodles” or give “big ups” at the end of the show. They now had to say “thank you” instead of “big up”.
Are y’all side-eyeing as hard as I am? It was very clear what was going on here. The Stews were now deemed “too black” and 790 The Zone was having none of it.
As of last year, The 2 Live Stews were still the strongest show on the station. Other than a disdain for diversity in programming, what would make you take away what made The Stews unique?
Something like Destiny’s Child, the writing was on the wall. The 2 Live Stews show has now been cancelled. The Stewart brothers can be heard on a new show called The Red Zone with some white hosts from WQXI. It’s clear that Doug and Ryan are just biding their time until their contract is up. I’m hoping they get picked up by another company who will give them back the creative reigns to their show.
It’s clear that race played a large part in The 2 Live Stews situation. Just look at the comment section of this story about their show’s cancellation. Commenters repeatedly claim that The Stews catered to “thug nation”, “ghetto” or “hood” listeners. It’s clear what WQXI’s fan base thinks of listeners like me.
What’s more troubling than the fact that my all-time favorite sports talk show is no more is that blacks in sports talk radio are damn near non-existent. There are no shows hosted by African Americans on ESPN Radio or Yahoo! Radio (who acquired Sporting News in 2011).
Blacks in sports media can be found all over television but are like chupacabras on radio. We hear a lot about the demise of black radio from the music standpoint but I think the discussion must be broadened to cover more than music. We’re losing across the entire industry. Can anything be done to save black talk radio? Should we be focusing on owning our own stations and catering to our own communities? What say you?