By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Mar 02, 2007 at 5:26 AM

(Editors' note: is a media partner with ESPN Radio, 1510/1290 AM. The opinions of Mr. Begel do not necessarily reflect those of management or its editorial board.) 

I'm not a huge believer in media-orchestrated campaigns to save television shows, get rid of coaches or even vote for your favorite amateur singer.

But I am ready to start a campaign to stop a pending suicide.

The victim?

WSSP (1250 AM), the sports talk radio station in Milwaukee.

Let me make it perfectly clear that I am rooting for this station to succeed. I love sports talk and because I live downtown I can only occasionally, and then sporadically, get WAUK, which operates at 1510 AM during the day and switches to 1290 at night. I like their format, their hosts and just about everything about the station -- except for the fact that I can hardly ever tune it in while driving.

I think having two full-time sports talk stations in the city helps our image and makes us a bigger class. I also think that the more opportunity to talk about our shared passion for sports means we might focus less on the things that divide us.

But, I also think that no sports talk is better than juvenile and sophomoric sports talk.

Make no mistake about it -- if WSSP disappears, the medical examiner will rule it was death by suicide.

The numbers are horrible. The station is right near the bottom of the Milwaukee market. It trails WGLB, a tiny gospel station; it has half the audience of WFZH, a contemporary Christian station and is way, way behind WDDW, a Spanish-language station based in Sturtevant.

Everyone knows that most sports radio stations have trouble attracting big audience numbers. But, this station has been an example of how stupidity is not a great quality to have when it comes to running a station.

I'm not sure where to begin, so I'll just start.

First of all, with the exception of Gary Ellerson, everybody on the station sounds exactly like everybody else. They all have that kind of slurry, "too-cool for words, I know sooo much about sports and look how angry I can get" way of talking.

You just know that somebody, probably the program director, told them he wanted "energy" when they were on the air. "Energy" is a big word in the radio business. The problem is that some people in radio think that talking fast, loud and angry will provide credibility.

This station does so many stupid things. Someone told the hosts that they should say "WSSP Sports Radio 1250" as often as possible. So they do, all the time, and at odd and uncomfortable times that ruin the flow of good conversation. Do you think anyone listening to the station does not know what station they are listening to? Of course not.

This station has a bunch of hosts who sound like 15-year olds trying to impress the adults in the room. In one memorable sentence, I heard a discussion of sports in Wisconsin. The host said he wanted to "ferret out college teams" when he meant to say that he wanted to add college teams to the list of pro teams for the sake of this discussion. Then he said he wanted to add the college teams to the "lexicon" of pro teams. These are people who have, on their good days, a nodding acquaintance with the English language. They've obviously got those "One Word a Day" calendars and are bound and determined to use big words, correctly or not.

This is a station in grave trouble. Look at the advertisers they have on the station. Strip Clubs. Adult book stores. Chicago vasectomy clinics. Lawyers you¹ve never heard of. And this curious afternoon segment when they have these long, extended conversations with a financial planner.

Granted, WSSP is at a disadvantage. The station has not developed an identity. It's obvious they can¹t figure out what they want to be. This week, I listened to a couple of hours during drive time of Ellerson and his partner,
whoever he is, talk about the partner riding a pink bike, talk about fights they have with their wives, talk about family troubles and talk about how they ought to have a weekly segment when guys can call in and "whack" their
wives. This was on a sports talk station. When he talks about his family, Dave Barry is funny. These guys giggled, but funny is one thing they aren¹t. They sounded like misogynistic Neanderthals.

The question is: What can WSSP do to turn things around?

Well, it's not going to be easy. But if I were running the station, I'd try and steal some of the people at WAUK and then make a big, big deal about it.

Even if I couldn't steal them, I'd try and let the attendant publicity tell people I exist. I'd look for a couple of people with some authority, probably ex-jocks, to put into my lineup. And I would talk to my parent company about getting the money to seriously bid against TMJ for the rights to the Packers, Brewers or Bucks. You don't need
them all, but one of them would do wonders.

And, I would take the children and send them packing. I don't know what kind of research the station has used to figure out what their isteners are like, but it¹s cut-rate research. I know lots of women and lots of men who don¹t go to strip clubs or dirty bookstores that love sports and would love to participate in good, in-depth sports talk. At present, they can¹t find it at WSSP.


Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.