Hill & Schlereth... or is it Schlereth & Hill? Whatever the case, the random pairing of SportsCenter anchor Mike Hill and NFL analyst Mark Schlereth are debuting tonight on ESPN Radio as the new primetime show weeknights from 7PM-10PM. There's a fancy video up on ESPN's PR propaganda website blog introducing listeners to the new pairing.
Great, so from what I gathered from that video the show will be part barber shop, part Alaskan fishing trip. For some reason, the decision makers at ESPN Radio have decided their latest offereing absolutely has to fit into the mold of Mike & Mike by combining one ex-jock with one non-descript anchor. Another "Odd Couple" premise, how original! But, can Hill & Schlereth develop the chemistry of Greeny & Golic? Who knows. Mike & Mike isn't the gold standard of sports radio by any stretch. But, they've been a success by appealing to a broad range of sports fans, even if their old, campy schtick and vanilla opinions doesn't motivate most passionate sports fans.
So why would this pairing of Hill & Schlereth succeed in replicating the formula? Personally, I find Mark Schlereth to be one notch below Trent Dilfer on the totem pole amongst ESPN analysts. Schlereth is barely tolerable when he's talking NFL on TV or making appearances on ESPN Radio. Will anyone nationally want to listen to his inflated views and ill-informed opinions for three hours? Can he talk about anything besides football and his son's baseball career? Mike Hill has actually impressed me when I've heard him on ESPN Radio on SportsCenter in the evenings, but why saddle him by making him play second fiddle to Schlereth?
On a larger scale, Hill & Schlereth could be doomed to be another bland radio copycat. For once, ESPN had a chance to be bold and develop a new Dan Patrick or Scott Van Pelt. Instead, they've decided to go to an overused formula once again. The new pairing likely won't be able to fill the intelligent shoes of Brian Kenny, who left his primetime radio show and ESPN as a whole to go to MLB Network. But, I'm sure it will be heavy on formulaic jokes and hijinx centered around the kooky chemistry between a washed up athlete and a hip sports anchor...
Really though, ever since Dan Patrick and Tony Kornheiser have moved on, ESPN Radio just seems to be willing to float in mediocrity on a national level. As the biggest force in sports, ESPN Radio has lagged behind almost every other platform at the WorldWide Leader. I'll give full credit to Scott Van Pelt for growing a legitimate afternoon host, but it's taken years for many (well, myself) to take SVP seriously as a major force in sports talk radio. Anyone remember the purgatory that was Mike Tirico and Friends that immediately replaced Dan Patrick? Talk about wandering in the desert.
And what about the rest of ESPN Radio's lineup? Colin Blowhard? Doug Gottleib? Why is it that ESPN gets behind guys like Cowherd while true radio pros like John Stashower, Chuck Wilson, John Kincade, Freddie Coleman, and others at the network continue to shuttle from timeslot to timeslot on ESPN Radio in relative anonymity. Is it because they don't take pleasure in offending half of their audience on a daily basis? Is it because they treat their listners like adults instead of talking down to them in a demeaning tone? There's even a boatload of talent on local ESPN Radio stations that would be worthy of a call-up like Marc Silverman & Tom Waddle in Chicago or Dan Dakich in Indy.
Why doesn't ESPN focus on the ample resources sitting right there in Bristol instead of continuing to glorify their most polarizing figures and stable of ex-jocks. Why doesn't ESPN Radio think outside the ex-jock heirarchy and bring in somebody with a true pedigree for compelling sports talk radio. I hear there might be a certain someone available soon that could fit the bill. In the meantime, until ESPN Radio starts thinking bold to develop some true radio talent, I guess we can look forward to surely more great and utterly random tandems on the airwaves in our near future...
Stuart Scott & Dale Jarrett
Cliff Drysdale & Antonio Pierce
John Buccigross & Alexi Lalas
Dan Le Batard & His Dad (hmm, guess that one's already being tried)
Suzy Kolber & Chris Mortensen (that one's taken too)
Michael Smith & Charissa Thompson (also taken)
John Anderson & Trent Dilfer
Skip Bayless & Stephen A. Smith
Come to think of it, that last one just gave me nightmares. I think I'll stop now. What random pairings would you like to see on ESPN Radio in the near future? Maybe your suggestion will become reality sooner rather than later...