Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's Not Too Early to Ask Some Hard(line) Questions -- PART 1

I think the archetypal P1 harbors the thought that if he were personally acquainted with a Ticket host, that said host would like said P1.  And in general, most hosts have a reputation for friendliness towards P1's they meet out and about and at remotes and events.

But I don't think Mike Rhyner will like the next set of articles -- and, alas, probably Your Plainsman -- much at all.  Not because they will be critical of him -- quite the opposite.  It's because he judges his employment relations with Cumulus/The Ticket -- because that is what we are going to be considering -- to be none of anyone's business but his. 

And why shouldn't he feel that way?  Would you want your employment issues to be the subject of a public website?  Of course not. 

But he's kind of brought this on himself, a little. 

First, his contracts, if not their details, are the stuff of news reports.  It was a big deal when he re-upped in February 2009. 

Second, there was that little matter of the alco-fueled speculation on the verdant shores of Lake Mingus back in March, where he suggested he might disappear after February.  If you want a refresher on this episode, you might want to review this article.

Third, he (and the Hardline generally) allude to their somewhat adversarial relationship with their employers as a recurring bit on the showgram.

Finally, The Ticket as a whole has cultivated a highly personalized relationship between the hosts and the P1.  Mike's welfare is naturally of widespread interest to the largest and most loyal listenership in the metro.

So, at the risk of aggravating a gent of whom most of us are extremely fond, we're going to have a look at what might be in store for him, The Hardline, and the P1.


NOTE:  Other than what Confessors suggest in comments, which may or may not be credible, I have zero inside information on any of what you're about to read.  I don't even know for a certainty that his deal is up in February.  However, circumstantial evidence and at least one knowledgeable-sounding Anonymous suggest that it is.

The first question is an easy one:   Do we want Mike to re-up?

That answer is very easy for me:  Absolutely.  And it has nothing to do with him being the founder, blah blah blah.  He is simply the most listenable guy on the radio.  I'm going to cheap out and quote myself from an article last spring:

"I think Mike Rhyner is a broadcast genius, quite aside from his founding of The Ticket.  He is the rock upon which DFW sports radio is built.  Asking "what's so great about Mike Rhyner," which is a perfectly sound question, is kind of like asking "what was so great about Walter Cronkite?"  After all, the guy just read the news.  He might have had a minor editing function, but in the years in which he became famous he was basically a guy who sat in front of a camera and read stuff that other people wrote.  And yet, he was an utterly compelling broadcast presence, the most trusted man in America.  

"Mike is like that.  *   *   *   The man has a sound, an authentic Texas sound.  It's just flat likable.   Despite his curmudgeonly pose, his essential goodwill and humanity can be felt through the speakers.  And he's smart as hell.  And, yes, there's the don't-give-a-damn attitude that is very distinctive -- as opposed to media figures who claim to offer I-don't-care-what-other-people-think viewpoints but who are obvious poseurs without conviction, Mike truly does not care what happens to him -- no, he's not immune from getting his ass fired, but his ass truly could not care less and truly knows that he's got the Cumulo-Ticket Overlords by their nine-kilowatt balls."

In upcoming posts I'll back off on a little of that, but not my regard for Mike. 

Some of you may recall that among the motivations for my founding this site was the impression that the Hardline was in trouble -- very out of balance, with Mike seemingly losing interest and focus on the showgram.  I wasn't the only one who observed that.  Lots of comments on Mike "phoning it in."

That tendency of the show, it seems to me, has decisively reversed itself.  It's been a long time since I thought the OverCorby had escaped his cage.  Mike has been much more present on the show, his attention seems only seldom to wander.  I think I've expressed the thought that Danny's increased role has something to do with keeping the show in equilibrium.  I don't think it's a salary drive -- it feels real to me.  Reason doesn't matter -- the Rangers' ascendancy; Mavs greatness; feeling good about life for reasons that are truly none of our business -- dunno, maybe none of those things.  I've found myself laughing out loud at the show more the last few months than I have in a long time. 

His talent really is unique.  He may be baseball Jesus, but he's not noted for profound sports expertise.  In fact, he parodies that fact, sometimes picking the Cowboys to win all their games and go on to win the SuperBowl.  When he's on pre- or post-game duty, he's almost invisible.  In fact, he's not really all that comfortable in segments with other hosts.  Nope, he's a star, but a star with his own rhythms and cadences and lyrics and tempo and it works best when he's the conductor. 

And on The Hardline it works very well indeed. 

So, as I say, the answer for me is easy.  But not everyone is a big Mike Rhyner fan.  I don't know how the P1 breaks down on the subject of Mike.  In fact, the above excerpt was from an article responding to a Confessor who was wondering "What's So Great About Mike?"  So let me ask you this:  Knowing the alternatives in DFW drive radio, if Mike were to disappear and not be replaced -- The Hardline becoming the Corby/Danny/Ty/Grubes show -- would you continue to listen?

Let's hold the speculation on who might replace Mike.  We'll come back to that, promise.  I want to gauge your interest in whether Mike stays on or not. 

We'll explore other issues surrounding the enigmatic Mike R in following articles.

Unless he finds me and beats me up first.

*     *     *

Follow Your Plainsman on Twitter:  @Plainsman1310


Scott said...


I too have noted that the Hardline is much stronger. I think your 3 reasons are great. Mavs, Rangers, and "life" all contribute.

I see two aspects. When the little one started, they had GREAT Cowboys talk, they had an All-Star game, they soon had a Mavs ownership change, etc... I think Mike loves not only the Rangers, but sports.

Before the Rangers success, and the Mavs win, we had mediocrity. Yes, the Mavs were good, but frustrating. Rangers were Avg at best. Cowboys... well, they are still a lighting rod, but they are the Cowboys... nuff said.

"Life", well, many confessors have likely dealt with "life", and it can be a huge downer.

It almost seems like Mike had a confluence of "personal" success. "Life" is dealt with, the Mavs won, and his beloved Rangers went to the WS 2xs. Even for me personally, my sports weenie has been crazy the last 18 months.

I think that early success all shows had at the Ticket, spurred by some good sports events, helped hold the thing together until the chemistry could take over.

I think that chemistry had to form with the Hardline. It was likely easier in the beginning, there was no pre-existing chemistry to overcome. Since the Hammer, not only did they have to overcome "old" chemistry, they had to develop new.

To keep this short... I will wrap up.

Last night I listened while Mike described his first viewing of Beavis and Butthead. I almost had a wreck laughing, something I have not done in a long time while listening. I am the same age as Corby, share many previous experiences... and their bit on Mike's opinions was just like any conversation I would have with my Dad. It is times like that, that I relate, and I think that is something that has been missing, I have not related until the last year or so like I did early on.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the contract has anything to do with anything. He'll retire when he wants to retire.

I don't think there's really anything here.

The Plainsman said...

Can't believe I left this out:

I'm suspicioning one other factor that might account for the renaissance of The Hardline: The very noisy (but thus far not very effective) new competition from The Fan/RaGE, starring Mike's former partner.

Anonymous, you could be correct. But I'm not the only one who noticed that there have been times in the post-Greggo years where Mike seemed to have lost interest, or was distracted, or something. And also noticed that for about the last year, he's grabbed back some of that air time. I don't care what the reason is, I'm just glad to hear a revitalized Hardline.

DRW1961 said...

I think that a Corby/Danny/Ty/Grubes Hardline would fail.

While those guys are OK in their roles and Danny and Grubes could probably expand their roles somewhat, the program would be too much for Corby and Danny to carry on a daily basis. As we all know, too much Corby is not a good thing and there would most certainly be too much Corby in that environment.

Is Mike the answer?

He's an answer, but maybe not the answer. The show wouldn't be the same without him, but there could certainly be some replacements to move into his seat and make the show something that could, and probably would, succeed.

Will that happen?

IMHO, no. If Mike leaves, there will be a revamp of the lineup to deal with his absence. I have some opinions on what would happen, but I'll just say that Corby should be begging Mike to stay....

Will Mike leave?

Again, IMHO, no. I think he will re-up for another period (2 years?) and then re-evaluate the situation at that time. I think he's having fun with it all now - the sports side of it is fun with all that is going on locally and I think he gets along with Corby and Danny well enough to call that "fun" as well.

I think he's enjoying what's going on and playing the role of Ticket curmudgeon enough to stick around for a while. And, I think that Cumulus knows that they have a good thing going and that the Ticket is the least of their worries right now, so they will renew the contract(s) and leave well enough alone.

And, please - can we strike "showgram" from the lexicon here? Please? Do it for the kids and do it for Texas. Can I get an "amen"?

Anonymous said...

"And, please - can we strike "showgram" from the lexicon here? Please? Do it for the kids and do it for Texas. Can I get an "amen"?"


(Also, CTO and STD. Stupid, stupid attempts at Ticket-style schtick.)

Anonymous said...

If it bothers you so much, why do you visit the blog?

Patron: "I don't like your chicken soup!"

Manager: "Then why do you order it, every single time you come in?"

birq said...

For the record, DRW, while I'm not in love with the local vernacular, this is the Plainsman's sandbox and he can call things what he pleases. You can embrace it, ignore it or stop ordering the chicken soup, as it were.

Plainsman, I know you want to address the future of the timeslot later on, but I have to say that a Corby/Danny/Ty/Grubes Hardline would not happen. When Mike eventually leaves, as DRW alluded to, the lineup with most likely be shuffled, with BaD moving to afternoon drive and someone else (The Soul Patch, The Sirloin brothers, Follywill, Rhads) moving into the noon-3 slot. Corby will most likely be repurposed, but I can't see him in (and fervently hope that he's not put into) a pure #1 role. I don't think he can carry a show on his own, except a Rant-style formatless hangover fest on weekend mornings.

I tend to agree with the prevailing sentiment around here that Mike will renew his contract and hang around the Ticket for a few more years. I know he threw out the possibility during the campout, but I don't think there's anything behind it. He's too proud and vain to go to The Fan or ESPN, and if he retired, I think he'd go insane with only Petty Theft to distract him. I think he needs The Ticket as much as The Ticket needs him.

Anonymous said...

birq: Well put.

Anonymous said...

when mike leaves the hardline will cease to exist. the remainders will be shuffled and jettisoned to an earlier time slot. my guess is 10-noon as norm is beyond done. bad radio will most certainly take over pm drive assuming bob sturm doesnt bolt for greener pastures.

important note for you, plainsman:
the ENTIRE on-air cast of ktck are pleading for more listeners.
you have been hearing constant teases and cross-promotions of other shows and segments.
my question is: did they do poorly in the ratings?
i recall junior saying the musers were #1 again, but he didnt mention the rest of the station as he usually does when they dominate across the board.

Anonymous said...

Last Anon: I noticed the pleading as well. This is the first time I can recall hearing such an out and out plead for listeners. Usually the gist of anything listener related pertains to the P1s, 2s, and 3s being the best. This, as far as I can tell, is new territory--interesting territory.

I agree with you on the reshuffling and whatnot if/when Rhyner leaves. Ditto regarding BaD and pm drive time. (Same goes about Bob...I wouldn't be surprised if he's gone by this time next year. His star is on the rise in a major way.)

birq said...

I remember hearing all the promotion and cross-promotion a few years back, before the last clock change (when they switched to the 10-30-50 format and changed the sound of all the bumper music). This might just be a mandate from upper management across the board more than "pleading". I didn't get in depth with the last ratings book, but from what I saw, the little one still looked pretty healthy.

The Plainsman said...

As usual, solid responses from the Confessor Nation. We will be considering the future of PM drive in a soon-to-come post.

In the meantime: Is there any particular source for the notion that BaD would be the successor if The Hardline lost Mike or otherwise expired? I've read it a lot but can't tell if this is something that people are assuming (or hoping for), or whether there is some station-sourced evidence.

birq said...

Personally, it's just a hunch that BaD would replace The Hardline. They're the next strongest show behind the Musers and have been extremely strong afternoon drive filler in the past, so it makes the most sense to me to give them the promotion and backfill their spot with either an up and comer or interloper.

ap said...

"Personally, it's just a hunch that BaD would replace The Hardline."

I'd second this hunch. The one area I wonder about is the producer...On more than one occasion, I've tried to figure out whether the nut-kicking of Gribble is just a bit, or if there's a genuine issue there. I've heard a few shows where Danny has produced for BaD Radio (I think it was when BaD was doing aft-drive), and while it was solidly produced, I didn't think there was much chemistry there.