Reusse Unchained

Reusse: What can we laugh about today

Ted Robinson was hired to host a sports talk show early in 1981 by Art Schreiber, the station manager at KSTP-AM. Ted was on Monday-through-Friday starting at 6 p.m. The capable Gene Harrington was given the Saturday night shift, and then Gene served as the producer for Sunday night.

Two sports writers, Joe Soucheray and I, were teamed for three hours: 6 to 9 p.m. We had to hustle to get the columns done when covering Vikings games, but $30 per hour, an extra $90 per week … who could pass on that in 1981?

Poor Gene had his work cut out guiding a couple of radio novices through the long evening. “Sunday Sports Talk’’ was driven completely by calls; one summer night, there were no calls, and the Twins stunk back then, and the Vikings weren’t yet in Mankato, so Joe and I declared that we would stand on the table until the five lines were filled.

We actually did it, and the calls came.

Schreiber had left and that kingly sum of $90 per — $180 for the pair, and whatever Gene was making – was a bit rich for the new boss. Soucheray and I were fired in the spring of 1982; I can almost remember the shrugs we exchanged while saying, “What the hey? We knew it wasn’t going to last.’’

Out of nowhere, late in the summer of 1983, we received a call from Scott Meier, the new station manager, and he offered to team us again on Monday nights – only two hours, but get this, $50 an hour.

A hundred bucks a week for two hours of taking calls from some phenomenal impressionists and satirists. The call-in entertainers high-jacked the show and turned it into enough of a cult hit that “Saturday Morning Sports Talk’’ was added in 1985.

There was never much information to be weaned from those four hours per week, other than the night in December 1985 when a mysterious character identifying himself as “Dark Star’’ called to inform us that Bud Grant was going to resign for the second time at the end of that season.

We went with it as fact, and we were as surprised as the next person when it turned out that Dark Star’s scoop was 100%, and we’re even more surprised when the Darkman became a local legend.

Joe had switched from writing sports in Minneapolis to writing a local news column in St. Paul in 1984. I had switched from writing sports columns in St. Paul to writing sports columns in Minneapolis in 1988.

Joe started his afternoon show in 1993 and built Garage Logic into an on-going phenomenon. Somewhere in there, we became AM-1500, the Talk Station , and with GL Joe and Rush Limbaugh riding high, so was the station.

Monday nights died, Saturday mornings remained, and I made morning and afternoon calls to provide sports information. There was actually some of that, although the premise didn’t change much: What can we laugh about today.

Certainly, tragedy in the real world or huge sports stories would lead to a best effort at a meaningful discussion, but the fact is, I’ve always had a hard time turning down the sarcasm meter on radio.

Basically, in almost four decades, my attitude about radio hadn’t changed much from standing on the table to get some calls. Let’s make fun of this, let’s make fun of that, and, of course, be sure to make fun of ourselves.

We had a 5:30 to 9 a.m. general-interest show from January 2009 to February 2010, and while interviews with newsmakers and politicians were often straightforward, the search for laughs pretty much stayed the same.

Then came the announcement that the station was going to a sports format, and we became 1500ESPN in April. My shift was four hours for a time, and you can’t find that many laughs.

The other sports station, KFAN, was a tough nut to crack, and then it went to FM and became a juggernaut. The long-running schtick – poking the home teams, searching for laughs – was worn out and overmatched.

I remember coming back from a week in Miami five, six years ago and saying, “Dan Le Batard’s show is fantastic. That’s the show I want to do. But I can’t. He’s a 10 on wit, timing and delivery, and I’m maybe a 4.’’

It was probably closer to a 2 last Sept. 7, when the Ride with Reusse was put to a merciful end. There was a new approach coming to the station and the rest of the brand in the offing, and it became official on Tuesday:

KSTP-AM, 1500 AM the Talk Station, and 1500 ESPN is now SKOR North. It’s promised to be a fresh look at presenting sports – information and commentary – and, boy, did we need one.

I still get to call in daily at 5:45 p.m., and I’m doing a Podcast on Mondays with Judd Zulgad, and that’s enough for everybody.

I would say it was time to go because it was too late to change my view on radio, but the truth is it was a time to go because I never had any interest in changing.

“Listen if you want to,’’ was my unofficial motto, and certainly not one to be used as a business model.

Good luck to SKOR North. The logo looks great, that much we know already.

Reusse Unchained