I drive for a living.
Since I drive for a living, it stands to reason that I listen to the radio all day long. Since I’m a huge sports nut, it also stands to reason that I listen to a lot of sports talk radio.
I’m old-school, so I listen to actual sports talk on the actual radio, including Mark Madden and 93.7 The Fan, the two most popular sports talk entities in the Pittsburgh market.
The Fan has sports talk throughout the day and even has “news desk” sports updates twice each hour. I usually turn the dial during those sports updates. Why? Who needs twice-an-hour sports updates in 2023? If I want a sports update, I’ll just go to Twitter or wait for a text from my cousin. Better yet, I’ll simply read the story that Google sends me on my app.
News is just a click away in 2023. We don’t have to wait around for sports updates.
We did in the 1980s, though. I remember running to the radio twice an hour and turning on KDKA to hear Goose Goslin give me the news from Steelers training camp or minicamp—not that they covered minicamp all that much in the 1980s.
It was in this climate that Stan Savran, who passed away on Monday at the age of 76, became a sports broadcasting superstar. If Savran was at Steelers minicamp, you paid attention. If he interviewed Chuck Noll at minicamp, you just had to be in front of your television set during the Six O’Clock News to see it.
If Savran interviewed anyone, it was generally a big deal. The same could be said for other local sports broadcasting heavyweights, including Bob Pompeani, Bill Hillgrove, John Steigerwald, Sam Nover and, yes, the great Myron Cope.
And when those guys did commentary at the end of their sports reports, either at six or 11, boy, you remembered it. The same could be said for the weekly newspaper columns written by local scribes, including Gene Collier, Bob Smizik, Ron Cook and Bruce Keiden.
Their opinions were usually respected, if not always agreed with, and these reporters were never called trolls (or whatever word was used to describe such people back then).
Sports talk radio was rare in the 1980s, and you had to make sure you were either at home or in a car at a certain time to hear it—usually at night.
Sports coverage, in general, was scarce in the 1980s, and you really had to go out of your way to find it in most cases.
It’s obviously not like that anymore.
You don’t need to wait around to consume Steelers' news. It’s there for your enjoyment whenever you want it.
Only problem is, it doesn’t carry the same weight that it once did.
It used to be that reporters like Savran would talk to a former Steeler about a current Steelers’ technique, and it really meant something. Now, you have people named Steelers_Stan_in_Seattle “breaking down film” in his basement, and hundreds of people on Twitter saying things like, “We appreciate your hard work, brother."
A stat was a stat back in Savran’s day. Now, we have non-credentialed people who go to training camp and tally passing yards.
“We appreciate your hard work, brother.”
WTF? I’m sorry, but that’s like a movie buff counting the number of f-bombs in The Departed (237). It may be interesting, but it doesn’t really mean anything.
Halftime of Monday Night Football was appointment viewing when I was a kid because it was really the only chance to see highlights of that Sunday’s NFL action. These highlights were narrated by Howard Cosell, and it just hit harder when he talked about a Steelers game and described a touchdown by John Stallworth or Bennie Cunningham.
Today, we got people named Howard from Harrisburg who just won’t stop showing me highlights of Super Bowl XLIII.
Your ears perked up when reporters like Stan Savran gave you a scoop because you knew he wouldn’t be telling you something if he didn’t think it was true.
I remember when there was a huge controversy at Steelers training camp in the mid-’90s involving Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene. They got into a bit of hot water for embarrassing a kid who perhaps strayed a bit too far into a restricted area to ask them to sign his football.
I’ll never forget Savran’s remark, “I'm certainly not surprised, considering the players involved.”
And he had to work with those guys—a couple of menacing outside linebackers—on a regular basis.
Today, we have someone like Dov Kleiman, whoever the hell he is, retweeting a juicy nugget from an actual reporter and benefitting from it to the tune of 181,000 Twitter followers. He doesn’t have to deal with the consequences. He doesn’t have to interact with the subjects of these stories. He just sits at home and basks in the glow of more Twitter traffic.
“We appreciate your hard work, brother.”
It’s hard to tell the difference between the Stan Savrans and the Dov Kleimans in the modern world of sports reporting. But if one of them has an avatar as their profile pic, it’s safe to say they’re not a trusted source.
The person who gets to be in the locker room, on the practice field and in the press box, on the other hand? That person is legit.
This is why I laugh when fans, people who often don’t even live in Pittsburgh, call long-time Steelers insiders like Gerry Dulac and the recently-retired Ed Bouchette hacks. Really? Bouchette is actually in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his work covering the Steelers for over three decades.
As for Dulac, who is still working, I’d tell you to come say that to his face. However, that might require an eight-hour plane ride, and you probably wouldn’t even be allowed to see his face once you got to Pittsburgh; he’d likely be at the Steelers’ facilities interviewing players and coaches—and you don’t have access.
I remember watching some roundtable sports show on a public access channel in the early-'90s. I thought it was pretty cool because these were fans like me who had a platform to talk sports on a regular basis.
I wanted to do that in the worst way.
I get to do that, today, thanks to sites like Behind the Steel Curtain which have given me a platform to write and talk about the Steelers.
So many folks now get to share their thoughts about the Steelers and all sports, thanks to social media. We get to show the world that we know more than you think—some of us know way more than you think (not me).
But there’s still a difference between me and Stan Savran.
There may be way more people covering the Steelers now than ever before, but the true professionals are still only a precious few.
Stan Savran was one of them, and he may not have been as impactful in his final years as he was in the 1980s, but that’s only because there were just too many people talking to notice his greatness.