If you live and work and listen to sports radio in Chicago, you know who Mike North is. For years, he was the loudmouth voice of WSCR 670 The Score. Then, a contract extension went horribly awry (The Score wanted him to take a slight pay cut; North had no interest in that), the radio host was banished to the hinterlands, but only momentarily.
He's made his "comeback," if we may call it that, in an innovative way. First was the launch of his morning talk-show, which he co-hosts with Comcast's Dan Jiggetts, called "Monsters In The Morning." It's basically a radio show on TV, which makes him the direct inverse of TV On The Radio, one of our favorite bands. (This was likely unintentional.) And now, North has unveiled an even crazier idea: An all-Web, all-Chicago sports radio station, the first of its kind.
North has already lined up a stable of talent culled from local radio stations and media outlets, and he's being brash about the site, comparing himself in an interview with Crain's Ed Sherman to the Wright Brothers and Ted Turner. Humble, that Mike North:
"Do you think the Wright Brothers were worried about how many passengers they could get?" bellowed Mr. North in the downtown conference room belonging to David Hernandez, president of Spectrum Entertainment Group, the money behind this operation. Later, Mr. North interjects, "How many times did CBS, NBC and ABC laugh at Ted Turner and cable TV in the 1970s? Well, who's laughing now?"
The funny thing is, despite the mouthbreathing silliness that is his most frequently displayed quality ... North's right.
Think about it. A Web radio station's only real expense is talent. Granted, that's a pretty big expense, but when you're saving oodles of cash on infrastructure and offices and whatever else that your competitors -- actual radio stations -- aren't, you have a competitive advantage. What's more, people are tuning into streaming Web radio more and more. It might only be a matter of time until streaming shows up in cars. And even if that never happens, there seems little question that gambling on the internet is, at this point, a wise move.
At the very least, North will be testing the waters that other radio stations might one day have to jump in. We don't care much for his radio style, but it's hard to admit he isn't ahead of his time when it comes to technology.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger that can't wait to see Big Red in action again. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.