Originally posted Tuesday, November 6, 2018 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
680/93.7 The Fan celebrated 25 years on the air this past Saturday with a shindig at Sports & Social across the street from its offices at the Battery and a stone’s throw from SunTrust Park.
Many Fan alums along with current staff showed up to fete a quarter century of sports talk and a couple of famous sports figures popped by, too: former Falcons coach Dan Reeves and NBA legend and TNT basketball analyst Shaquille O’Neal.
I must be superbly blind because I apparently got there before Shaq left but did not see him. I know. How can you not see Shaq? But plenty of others did as proven by social media.
Here’s what Rob Jenners, producer of a podcast featuring Shaq and Fan host John Kincade posted on Facebook:
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The station wasn’t on continuously during its 25-year history. For a brief time in the late 1990s, the station was taken over by Cox and went news/talk. But owner David Dickey got the signal back in 2000. Although his station for a time was overshadowed by the brasher, more out-there 790/The Zone, he was patient.
He thought outside the box and hired Christopher Rude in the early 2000s to be a morning host despite the fact Rude was not a sports guy. It worked and he was there for about 15 years. (Rude chose not to go to the reunion. “That chapter of my life has passed,” he said.)
When the Zone began suffering financially after the owners stretched themselves too thin by buying stations in St. Louis in the late 2000s, Dickey slowly began plucking away the Zone’s best talent, bit by bit. He was also able to add an FM simulcast, something the Zone failed to do.
He grabbed Matt Chernoff and Chuck Oliver in 2007.
“Great station,” Chernoff said. “Everyone is chill.” And he loves being at the Battery. “There’s something going on here all the time!”
In 2013 and 2014, he nabbed the entire Zone morning show Steak Shapiro, Nick Cellini and Chris Dimino. By 2015, the Zone was gone. Shapiro used to partly own the Zone with Andrew Saltzman (who also showed up to the party.) The larger-than-life host is now part of the Fan morning Front Row show with another former Zone alum Sandra Golden and Falcons alum Brian Finneran.
Cellini and Dimino are now mid mornings. Dickey also plucked Mark Zinno for the Sports X after his stint on 92.9/The Game.
At the party, Kincade talked about surviving cancer in his late 20s and deciding to pursue sports talk radio full time at the Zone in the late 1990s. In 2000, the Fan picked him up. He began September 4, 2000 with Buck Belue and still counts the number of shows he does: today was the 4,241st show and he said he’s under contract at least until 5,000. “There’s nobody better to work for than David Dickey,” he said.
Mike Thompson, who ran the Fan in 1994 and worked at the station again in the early 2000s, came to fete his many hires including Shapiro, Dimino and Kincade. He said he came from a talk background and had worked with Bob Grant and Sally Jessy Raphael. He built the Fan with that template in mind. He hasn’t been back in Atlanta for 12 years.
“I’m humbled and proud so many people came back,” said Dickey, like a proud papa. “It’s a great venue. The weather cooperated.” He only started drinking after 9:30 p.m. and was blissfully nursing a beer at 9:50.
A couple of no shows to the party included former morning men Perry Laurentino and Beau Bock. “They asked me to do a show with Shapiro and AJ [Cannon, his original team] but I declined,” Bock texted me. “I didn’t even consider it.”
Cannon did show up and in fact, joined the Fan morning show last week for some nostalgia talk with Shapiro.
“Doing the show with Steak it felt as if no time had passed even though we haven't even talked in at least 8 years,” Cannon said. “Even now being around the 680 family feels like home to me. That’s not even BS. That's how much I enjoyed it all.”
Dickey said the future is bright: “We don’t participate in the radio industry. What we do is help people and companies to grow and expand. It’s all about lifestyle and the brand.”