WHAS torpedoes once-popular Louisville sports talk show

Interesting that WHAS Radio is doing away with the sports talk radio show between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. after more than 30 years, especially at a time when sports talk appears to be enjoying enormous popularity.

The station announced Wednesday that Mandy Connell, who left Louisville last year to do a general talk show in Denver, will replacing Lachlan McLean, who is leaving the station in May. Connell previously held down a 9 a.m. to noon time slot, discussing a wide variety of issues and she will do her new show from Denver. Her new time slot in Louisville will be 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Van Vance made sports talk radio popular in Louisville.
Van Vance made sports talk radio popular in Louisville.

The show was a personal favorite of mine, I rarely missed it during the 15 or so years Van Vance was the host. Van was so easy going, allowing callers to express their views, rarely interrupting them or cutting them off. He was especially knowledgeable about University of Louisville athletics, simultaneously serving as the UofL play-by-play man. He retired in 1999 and was succeeded by Tony Cruise until Tony was picked to be the host of the morning drive host.

McLean became the sports talk personality in 2004, bringing with an often abrasive style that he believed was required for the job.  He was often argumentative with listeners, criticizing their opinions, and often resorting to cutting them short and hanging up on them. He also employed an approach intended to deliberately antagonize listeners, especially when it came to the UofL-UK rivalry.

McLean also appeared to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing University of Kentucky sports. I say “appeared” because I quit listening to the show several years ago because he was so negative. He was suspended by the station for two weeks in 2007 for reading a UK fan’s malicious poem about a UofL football player’s legal problems. McLean also had a paid segment of the show devoted to UK sports.

I have no statistics to back this up but it was probably his attentiveness to UK sports, at the expense of UofL, which drove many listeners away from the show. This combined with the growing number of locally-oriented sports talk shows on other stations and the fact that WHAS sold exclusive rights to Kentucky over UofL has never been received well in Louisville.

Mandy Connell is well versed on many topics, including local sports, and should have an entertaining show. But WHAS has lost a sizeable segment of audience for the time slot that may never return.