Hoffman's Houston
New twist

Sports talk veteran Lance Zierlein explains why he decided to call it quits

Sports talk vet Lance Zierlein explains why he's leaving morning show

Houston, Lance Zierlein quits SportsTalk 790, July 2017, Lance Zierlein profile
Radio veteran Lance Zierlein quitting his morning show on SportsTalk 790. Courtesy of Lance Zierlein/twitter
Houston, George Spring Bowling Event, June 2016, Lance Zierlein, Reid Ryan, Kenny Felder
Lance Zierlein with Reid Ryan and Kenny Felder at the 2016 George Spring charity bowling event.  Photo by Daniel Ortiz
Houston, Lance Zierlein quits SportsTalk 790, July 2017, Bucky Brooks, Daniel Jeremiah, Rhett Lewis, Lance Zierlein
Bucky Brooks, Daniel Jeremiah, Rhett Lewis, Lance Zierlein on the set of the NFL Network's "Path to the Draft."  Courtesy photo
Houston, Lance Zierlein quits SportsTalk 790, July 2017, Lance Zierlein profile
Houston, George Spring Bowling Event, June 2016, Lance Zierlein, Reid Ryan, Kenny Felder
Houston, Lance Zierlein quits SportsTalk 790, July 2017, Bucky Brooks, Daniel Jeremiah, Rhett Lewis, Lance Zierlein

Hosting a sports talk show in a major market like Houston, with winning teams in all three major sports, is a dream job. And hosting a show in morning drive time, when salaries typically are bigger than other day parts, is even dreamier. Hosts hang on to these jobs like grim death.

So why is radio veteran Lance Zierlein quitting his morning show on SportsTalk 790 (KBME-AM)? When he says “goodbye” at 9 am today (July 14) – that’s it. He’s gone.

At least for now. He is keeping the door open for a return to radio in the future.

Starting Monday, SportsTalk 790 afternoon host Josh Innes will take over the 6-9 am show, while Zierlein's partner Matt Thomas moves to middays.

“Honestly, I need a break,” Zierlein said. “Getting up early day-after-day, my alarm goes off at 4:43 am, can be challenging. It gets even tougher when you work a second job for NFL.com. It just wears you down.”

Zierlein is sticking with his writing position at NFL.com.

“I am responsible for draft content on NFL.com and that includes 500 draft profiles each year. That requires substantial film study and additional background work. I will be starting my work earlier this season to get a head start,” he said.

Zierlein is one of the most enduring, successful sports hosts in Houston radio history – two decades on the air talking Rockets, Astros, and Texans. And food and hip-hop and eventually five children. During that time, he crisscrossed the AM dial, working for SportsRadio 610 (KILT-AM), SB Nation 1560 (KGOW 1560), and SportsTalk 790 (KBME-AM).

He also created some memorable comedy characters, like "Tony 'The Hatchet Man' Valentine," "SEC Guy,” and “Rappin’ Dad.”

Zierlein landed his first job on radio in 1996, co-hosting a weekend show with Nate Griffin on SportsRadio 610. Prior to that, he provided football analysis and gambling information on a weekday show hosted by Kenny Hand and Rich Lord. Zierlein’s made his best ratings impact co-hosting with John Granato, first on SportsRadio 610, later on SB Nation 1560.

Ultimately, Zierlein fell victim to the unrelenting, early wake-up buzzer. Early is one thing. But 4:43 am is too early.

“When I came to 790, it was with the understanding that I wouldn't have to do a 6 am show. That changed after a couple of years and they had me doing 6-9 am. On my first Monday away from the show, I'm guessing I'll wake up around 7:15 or so. At least I'm hoping my body allows it. The grind is a big part of needing this time away from radio,” Zierlein said.

I asked Zierlein if sports talk has gotten better or worse during his 20 years in Houston radio.

“Both,” he said. “It's better because there are so many more outlets with information to choose from. This allows a host to do a better show if he has the understanding and talent. The proliferation of stations has watered down the talent and the focus for program directors. With everyone chasing ratings, playing the ‘ratings game’ is about finding simple topics that can get the most amount of people to stick around and listen. But that doesn’t mean the content is going to be better.”

Finally, what are the betting odds on Zierlein returning to radio?

“I will have to see what shakes out and how the football thing goes for me. I'm also going to start a podcast which will allow me to say anything I want and talk about whatever I want,” Zierlein said.

The podcast will be called "Off Script." To subscribe, click here. 

I’ll turn the tables on former gambling tout Zierlein and post my odds on him being back on radio: 100-percent guaranteed. And the over/under is Jan. 1, 2018. He will be climbing the walls without a microphone in front of his face.