Chris Elsberry: Crowe flies on his own, "Talking Sports with the Bird"
Published 1:00 am, Sunday, October 7, 2012
In the beginning, they were just two local guys, two good friends who decided they could put together a radio talk show and make it work. They went out and bothered their friends into buying sponsorship time. They went to WICC-AM and bought air time, and on a Sunday night in October of 1999, "Sports Talk in Black and White" was born.
Bobby Ramos, a Stratford police officer, and John Crowe, a senior publishing analyst at Sikorsky, two guys who have been friends since high school, started the show literally from nothing. Over the past 13 years, they've worked themselves into the No. 1-rated Sunday night sports talk show over the over-25 male demographic.
What made the show work were two things: The smoothness between Ramos and Crowe -- imagine two guys at the water cooler on Monday morning talking about Sunday's NFL games -- and the fact that they let their listeners call in and actually talk. No 30-second cutoff. You want to vent for five minutes on how bad the Jets were, go ahead. We'll vent right along with you. The show was opinionated. It was solid.
But for Crowe, the two-hour show was getting harder and harder to do. Both guys wanted to continue what they'd
started, so Ramos and Crowe are now both flying solo. "Bobby Ramos' Bottom Line" now fills that Sunday 7-9 p.m. slot on WICC, and starting this Tuesday, "Talking Sports with the Bird" debuts on WICC from 7-8 p.m.
"It was something I'd been thinking about for the last six months or so," Crowe said. "Sunday nights were getting increasingly difficult for me to do. So I started talking with Bobby about us doing our own bits. We both still have the desire to do our own stuff, so it was a mutual parting, and we're both looking forward to the new adventure."
Ramos and Crowe first met as teenagers playing pickup basketball when they would sneak into Fairfield University's Alumni Hall, until assistant coach Brendan Suhr would catch them and kick them out. Ramos went to Fairfield Prep. Crowe attended Roger Ludlowe. They were at Yankee Stadium when Chris Chambliss hit the homer to give the Yankees the 1976 pennant. Crowe was at Fenway when Bucky (Bleepin') Dent hit the homer in the '78 playoff game. They attended UConn together. They ate, drank and talked sports.
And in 1999, after hearing the sports talk junk coming from the other stations, they decided they could host a sports talk show of their own. So they made it happen.
"Bobby and I have been friends for 35 years and the conversations we had were so receptive by the audience," Crowe said. "Nothing was forced, nothing was scripted. That's what my new show will be, a lot of it is just going to be spur-of-the-moment, off the top of my head stuff. Just go with it. I think audiences really relate to that. It's not brain surgery. It's an outlet to give people a chance to talk about sports."
"It's going to be the same format," Crowe said. "I'm doing to try and do a little more interviewing prominent people. I'm going to try and do national stuff and focus a lot on UConn, especially now with what happened with Calhoun and with what's going on with the Big East, or what's not going on with the Big East."
Over those 13 years, Ramos and Crowe developed a loyal following, and the hardest thing might be getting those loyal listeners to follow Crowe over to Tuesday night and tune in.
"We had and have a great following, a loyal following," Crowe said. "We took that show from having absolutely no lead-in ratings at all on Sunday night to having the highest rated show on Sunday night in this area. I'm hoping that it'll flow over to Tuesday night. I'm totally confident that my show is going to be as successful as Sports Talk was."
Because that's what Crowe feels he's best at, talking sports. And giving his listeners a chance to talk sports.
"You're basically not splitting the atom here," Crowe said. "You want to make the show sound like it's two guys talking on the bench waiting for their turn in a pick-up basketball game or two guys in a bar, talking about what's going on.
"You can call, vent your frustrations, and I'm going to try and have interesting people on. I want to cover topical things, but like I said, the (biggest thing) will be the interaction between me and the audience. That's what kept Bobby and I going for 13 years and that's what will make this show bigger and better than that."