Local sports talk radio is an interesting animal, especially in markets outside of the biggest few cities in the country. Some local talk show hosts are true professionals grinding their way through smaller markets in search of climbing the ladder to national recognition. Some local talk show hosts are complete buffoons who have no business being in front of a live microphone. The vast majority though fall somewhere between the two. All of that makes the following story so surprising and strange.
The local drive time hosts on the ESPN Radio affiliate in Columbus OH, Mike Ricordati and Scott Torgerson, are your prototypical hosts described above. At times the "Common Man" and "Torg" (as if there were ever more fitting nicknames for medium sized market radio hosts) are entertaining and informative. Then there are the natural patches of blatant homerism, sophomoric humor, and loud opinions. I can imagine the show is quite similar to your own local drive time show, just with different teams and topics.
All of the above was reason for me to nearly drive off the road in Columbus yesterday when the program announced that President Barack Obama, the leader of the free world, would join the pair for an exclusive interview!
President Obama... is doing an interview... with a pair of local sports radio hosts in Columbus, OH. Now I am a proud Columbus resident, and the city is ranked 15th in terms of population in the 2010 census, but is Ohio that much of a swing state that our Commander in Chief is going to talk Ohio State training camp or Rick Nash being traded to the Rangers? Will President Obama be itching to discuss the Columbus Crew's new Designated Player signing? (That's Major League Soccer for those unfamiliar.) In case you can't tell, there's not a lot of local sports to talk about in C-Bus these days... unless you're hopping on the Reds bandwagon or that excited to see the Brandon Weeden era begin in Cleveland.
Presidential campaigns are just beginning to reach out for every vote possible, especially in battleground states. In fact, President Obama has made a local media blitz around Ohio today. But local sports talk radio in those states is certainly a new frontier. Is this something sitting presidents or presidential candidates have ever done before? Again, we're not talking about an interview with Bill Simmons that'll be downloaded a million times, or a national television Q&A with Clark Kellogg. We're talking local sports talk radio.
Can we expect Mitt Romney to make a similar appearance in Cleveland or Cincinnati to counteract this appearance by President Obama in Columbus? Perhaps he should try his home state and Ann Arbor or Detroit instead?
Of course, the questions and boundaries of the President Obama interview with Common Man and Torg were most likely approved before the interview was even set up and it's already been advertised as sports only. (Update: Torg assures us on Twitter the questions were NOT pre-approved by the Obama Administration.) President Obama is a noted sports fan, but does he know enough Columbus sports to make an impression on voters in a swing state? There does exist the small possiblity that a campaign catastrophe could happen live on the air tomorrow if the President endorses the NCAA bowl ban for the Buckeyes or speaks too highly of the John Cooper era.
Consider this a PSA to promote the humble sports metropolis of Columbus in the American heartland. Clearly, this is the biggest thing to happen in Columbus sports media since... well... ever. If your curiosity is getting the best of you tomorrow afternoon, Barack Obama's interview is scheduled at 4:30 ET. You can listen online here.