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Eavesdropping: In The Loop On Sports Radio 610

“Without any preconceived notions of the show, I tuned in July 1, hour one to hear Locker recite a poem he wrote, and Lopez sing an original song recapping the unprecedentedly brutal first half of 2020.”

Brandon Contes

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I always find it interesting, a city like Houston with championship-level professional teams in the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball produces sports radio ratings lower than most top-10 markets around the country. There are multiple explanations you can point to, but I can comfortably say it’s not for lack of on-air talent.

At the start of July, I was a first-time “LoopHole” where my only previous experience listening to Sports Radio 610’s midday show hosted by Landry Locker and John Lopez was a segment with Shaun Morash. Without any preconceived notions of the show, I tuned in July 1, hour one to hear Locker recite a poem he wrote, and Lopez sing an original song recapping the unprecedentedly brutal first half of 2020. Shortly after, In the Loop played sound from Mike Francesa and I was officially locked in. Little did I know, those were going to be recurring themes throughout the month: originality, rhymes and sound. A lot of sound.

In The Loop | Sports Radio 610 AM

I generally enjoy shows that are hosted by former producers. That’s not to say hosts who haven’t produced don’t care about their craft and aren’t willing to put in the prep work. But there are hosts who get to the studio, flip on the mic and let their audience do the work. I’d be willing to bet most of those on-air personalities never produced a show.

Locker’s professional background is as a producer. Actually, it’s as a fireworks sales manager, but his start in sports radio featured production experience, including a near four-year stint behind the glass for 610’s morning show. Now hosting middays since 2018, In The Loop sounds like a show with a willingness to try new things, it’s organized through ample prep work, builds out each show block and features a lot of harvested soundbites. It’s not a coincidence that this occurs with a former producer behind the mic, someone who can be an organizer and originator.

Lopez adds his experience as a longtime radio host and columnist for the Houston Chronicle. His knowledge, having been around teams and players, provides excellent insight on topics such as whether NBA players will ditch the bubble for extracurricular activities. The frequent analogies from Lopez are timely, often comparing sports to work and relationships in a way the listener can relate. Not quite as creative as Colin Cowherd, but also not as occasionally bizarre. As a listener, I enjoy a good analogy, especially ones I don’t have to decode.

In The Loop’s producer, Figgy (Edward Gilliard) has his work cut out for him each morning, but credit both hosts for regularly showing appreciation for his contributions. Segments for 610’s midday show are frequently built around sound clips. Finding, organizing and playing the audio is likely a collaboration, but Figgy surely plays a large role in making sure the show is running on all cylinders.

Pulling content from other shows and platforms is often underutilized in sports radio. Media personalities make millions of dollars to spew their professional opinions for everyone’s entertainment and if Skip Bayless says something outlandish, you should debate it on your show. In The Loop does not fall short in using and localizing outside content to react to, if anything, they might overutilize it. Whether it’s audio from another show on 610 (which they do a great job of cross-promoting), an NFL Network segment from Charlie Casserly, or sound from yesterday’s Astros presser, you’re going to hear a lot of voices on In The Loop.

Playing, replaying, analyzing, scrutinizing and reacting to sound is a big part of 610’s midday show. As a listener, I like it for the occasional set up, but I don’t need it as a lead-in to every opinion. Too much can take away from the pure and instinctive beauty of talk radio. Unforeseen conversations and debate can be lost when so many segments are designed to feature outside sound.

Separate from the clips, In The Loop also plays a lot of background music. Talk radio has the ability to connect with listeners and make them feel like they’re part of the show. Entire segments with background music reduced the personal feeling of the hosts talking to me. Instead, it feels more like a national ESPN program than a radio show.

It’s common for shows to play the NFL Films soundtrack during picks, and maybe include something upbeat for a short rapid-fire segment, but when used for more than just a few minutes it becomes distracting.  Understanding this is my personal preference and maybe 610 conducted a focus group determining Houstonians like cheesy music beds, but I say this as a compliment more than a criticism. Lopez and Locker already move at a good pace with plenty of natural entertainment value as a duo and it’s not because of a sound bed. 

It’s a small note, but it’s great that the show named their audience. It inherently builds the communal feeling that surrounds a radio show: LoopHoles in Houston, TOLO’s in Dallas, Kirk Minihane’s Minifans, and the more common “(insert show host) Nation.”

Lopez and Locker use the text line frequently and take calls from LoopHoles occasionally. In The Loop picks their spots for opening the phone lines and it does a good job of adding unique conversation to show’s inherent organization. Callers also create the potential for finding sound drops. Hopefully the show saved Locker’s, “it’s not about the booty,” or “this is the whitest I’ve ever felt, and I go to Kenny Chesney concerts!” to be played at a later date.

In The Loop has so many segments worthy of a podcast. I already acknowledged Figgy has a lot on his plate, and don’t mean to suggest giving him another task, but I wish they broke down some of their podcasts as individual segments, not just full hours. Entercom pushes the RADIO.COM app and suggests hitting the rewind button, but knowing a show keeps a running list of their best segments will drive me to the app more than any other selling point.

Even as a P1, it’s rare that I tune in to all four hours of a show’s podcast, but I’ll certainly click on the highlighted 10-minute clips they offer. Lopez’s best analogy, Locker’s poem, In The Loop breaking down Zack Greinke’s enigmatic postgame presser, are all headlines I’d prefer over hour one, two, three and four. Give me 10-minute clips, if it leaves me wanting more, I’ll check out the full hour.

In The Loop: Shorter Contract Extension Benefits Deshaun Watson, Texans -  YouTube

This was the first month of sports radio listening where there was actually sports to talk about since March, but I appreciate that In The Loop didn’t need it as a crutch. There was finally sports content to discuss, but Lopez and Locker didn’t focus solely on game recaps or interviews with beat writers, they always hammered the local scene creatively.

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BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Demetri Ravanos

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ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

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Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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BSM Writers

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Demetri Ravanos

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ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

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iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

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