Gimme a 'Z'
Thomas Wolfe was wrong – you can go home again.
For Lance Zierlein, home is on the radio with longtime co-hosting partner John Granato, and their reunion takes place this morning (November 27) on sports talk stations ESPN97.5 FM and SportsMap 94.1 FM.
Zierlein and Granato previously teamed with ratings success from 1997 to 2007 on KILT 610 AM, and from 2007 to 2011 on KGOW 1560 AM. Zierlein worked with a revolving door of co-hosts on KBME 790 AM between 2011 and 2017.
Zierlein is best known for his pro football insights, backyard cooking exploits and outlandish parody characters like “SEC Guy,” “Coach Slocum on a Mobile,” and “Tony ‘The Hatchet Man’ Valentine.” He also provides college draft analysis for the NFL Network, writes a blog, does a podcast and chases five kids at home. What does he do in his spare time? Trick question, he has no spare time.
Zierlein and Granato will host “The Bench” weekdays from 7-9 am on 97.5 FM. They will be joined by Raheel Ramzanali from 9-10 am, simulcast on 97.5 FM and 94.1 FM.
I caught up with Zierlein last week for 10 fast Q’s and A’s.
1. What exactly is it about the John and Lance pairing that clicks?
Lance Zierlein: That's an interesting one because I never quite found that click my entire time at 790. I think part of it is because when we got started, John and I were idealistic and more fun-oriented than radio-oriented. We didn't do a show that sounded like it was constructed at a broadcasting school. Because of this lack of standard format, we were able to be ourselves and just do what felt like fun.
2. Do you listen to sports talk radio?
LZ: Not really. Not anymore. Now I will occasionally tune in if there is a big event happening. But I find most shows to be lacking energy and somewhat boring. It's probably not a fair assessment since the only time I listen is when I'm in my car, and that isn't for very long on most days.
3. Do your kids think it's cool that Dad is on radio? Do they want you to come to Career Day at school?
LZ: They love that I'm on radio and were pretty angry at me for leaving 790, but mostly it was because the station had a pool table and video games. As for Career Day, my kids tested into a school with very bright kids who have accomplishment-driven parents and a love for things other than sports. I'm sure I would be dead in the water as soon as one of them hit me with "So all you do is talk? That's it?"
4. You've gained a reputation as a foodie. If you were sentenced to die in prison — and let’s face it, that’s only a matter of time — what would be your last meal?
LZ: I would ask Seth and Terrance from Pass & Provisions to create a 40-course taste menu and drag that thing out as long as possible.
5. Sports and politics have become intertwined like never before. Good thing or bad?
LZ: Up to this point, I would say it hasn't been great. We've seen it happen in various instances in the past, and those instances became iconic and meaningful. However, I worry that politics is much less civil than it's ever been, and the idea that good will come from this rather than more divisiveness seems unlikely. I understand why the platform is important but it just seems like the addition of social media has turned sports and politics into a powder keg.
6. Is there a trick to guaranteeing you’ll get hot French fries at McDonald’s?
LZ: This may just be a myth that I learned from a next-door neighbor in Pecan Grove growing up (I think that's who it was), but he said to order them with no salt. That way they have to make a fresh batch.
7. Give me your five favorite albums of all time.
LZ: My favorite music is usually directly to memorable times, so they vary based on what I was doing at that time and what my mood was. Also worth noting, with everything going digital, I rarely get entire albums these days, just songs I like. So, in no order —Straight Outta Compton by NWA, Fly or Die by N.E.R.D., Ego Death by The Internet, Urban Flora by Alina Baraz, and Chet Baker's Greatest Hits by Chet Baker.
8. Describe the photos you had on your bedroom wall when you were a kid.
LZ: There was one of Michael Jackson in a sweet yellow vest with white pants and a white shirt. This was Michael with the early curl. I think he was between Off the Wall and Thriller in this poster. Other than that, I had a two Phi Slamma Jamma posters, a Magic Johnson poster, a football poster called "Speedsters" with a bunch of receivers on it, a Clyde Drexler poster and I think an Isaiah Thomas poster for some unknown reason. I didn't even like him.
9. Who was the best guest you ever had on the air … and the worst? Describe an interview that went off the tracks.
LZ: The best guest was when we had comedian Patrice O'Neal on location at Nick's Place while at 1560 AM. He was a huge sports fan and we talked about him growing up as a black Celtics fan. We talked about what was going on with LeBron James at the time. We talked about football, about comedy, about relationships. It was very organic and fantastic radio in my opinion. I've listened to it several times since then and still think it's great. Unfortunately, Patrice passed away a couple of years ago.
The worst interview we had was at 610 AM, when ESPN first started its magazine. They asked if we wanted to have a college football writer on and we said yes. We started asking him about Big 12 teams like Texas and Texas A&M (who were not powerhouses at that time) and he didn't know anything about them. We kept him on for maybe four minutes before letting him go.
As for off the rails, we had comedian Tracy Morgan in studio to promote his show and we never had any control at any point. It was literally 20 minutes of stream of consciousness, with Tracy talking about dice games between super heroes, child support, bar fights and getting people at our office pregnant.
10. Why do you think it's so difficult for an offensive lineman to switch from right guard to left guard? I realize that the positions are totally different. In one, you have to block the guy in front of you, and in the other, you have to block the guy in front of you. No wonder nobody's ever really made a successful transition.
LZ: Well, the guard switch isn't so hard, Ken, but the tackle switch sure can be. When you are used to kick sliding with your right foot for years, it’s like writing right-handed. There is muscle memory involved. Do you just expect a righthander to be able to suddenly write lefthanded? Obviously not.