The event that caused me to notice this change was the announcement that Jim Rome, nationally syndicated sports talk show host, is bringing Tour Stop No. 30 to Xavier University's Cintas Center Saturday. To Xavier University, mind you. The other university of Cincinnati.
Pinning a sudden shift in our community's fortunes on a visit from a radio host might seem a bit melodramatic. Most mainstream Cincinnati radio listeners probably have never heard of Jim Rome. This is Cincinnati, where we dutifully tune in to our radios for traffic and weather or tap out the beat of Steppenwolf's Born to Be Wild on our steering wheels year after year.
Rome's visit is a promotional pit stop by a quick-witted, smack-throwing member of the radio world. But this guy is a different beast. He's all L.A., chock full of attitude. Rome knows his sports, attracts big-names to his radio show, trash-talks rock-headed jocks and gives no slack to callers who are unprepared to offer up takes that don't suck
Rome's local digs are the amplitude-modulated airwaves of "Homer" (1360 AM). Rome and radio hosts of his ilk have turned the tide of popularity toward this sleepy side of the radio dial.
Rome's "clones," as he refers to his listeners, don't want updated forecasts six times an hour, nor do they care to hear
the same tired music from aging hipsters speaking in pear-shaped tones. They want smack, and Rome delivers.
"I think the clones make the show," explains Sherry Fisher, whom I met waiting in line with 100 or so fans and passing the time talking sports. "The way Jim reacts to calls is great. He has a great following."
Clones, have to be on their game when called upon to offer their takes. Blow your chance and face on-air humiliation.
"You take the risk of your opinion being bad-mouthed by others," Fisher says. "No other show has a following like this one."
It's clear Rome has developed a loyal fan base in Cincinnati, serious jock heads unimpressed with the nightly two-minute sports coverage on the local TV news. Those I spoke with had strong opinions on players, statistics and how sports intersects with real life in today's society. They talked NBA, baseball, boxing and the football draft. They knew their stuff, and they were from Cincinnati listening to AM radio.
My impression of cool began to take a beating that afternoon as I stood in the ticket line. I asked myself why Rome would bring his show to Cincinnati. Why come to a town with half-empty new stadiums, frugal sports owners and a snowball's chance of professional post-season glory?
I posed the question to Rome himself.
"The 'Nati basically demanded it," Rome says. "Phone calls, e-mails, banging their monkey. They wanted it more than the rest of them, so they get No. 30." Not an unexpected response. But why not placate another syndicated market on the list?
And then I looked at the list of attendees for Rome's tour stop -- Austin Kearns, Aaron Boone, Sean Casey, Adam Dunn, Brian Simmons, Anthony Munoz, David West, Marty Brennaman and Oscar Robertson, all Cincinnati sports celebrities representing what's right with this place. It seems I've been caught up in the negativity that keeps a Cincinnati sports fan down.
I reconsidered. We live in a hotbed of college basketball, home to the NCAA player of the year. We boast some of the finest young prospects in the major leagues. We've hired one of the most highly anticipated NFL head coaches in the game and signed the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. We remain one of the few worldwide venues of the Tennis Masters Series and will now be home to what some are calling high school basketball's next LeBron James.
Maybe this town really is getting its act together. Maybe the gods of good fortune are giving us a long-deserved break after our decade-long pie in the face. And what brought this to light for me was an AM talk show piped in from LA LA Land.
The tide might just be turning in our favor. Let's hope we're awake enough to have a take that represents the Cincinnati we know, the community to which we belong. And in Rome's own words, let's hope our take doesn't suck.
JIM ROME brings his sports talk show/concert to Xavier's Cintas Center at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. A tailgating party begins at 9 a.m. Tickets will be available at ticket drops through Thursday; see www.1360Homer.com for details.