The billboards started appearing late in 1993. They promised loneliness and heartache for wives throughout the Metroplex. And, then, in January 1994 — it happened. KTCK, “The Ticket,” went on the air and a cry (a sort of primitive “whoop whoop” sound) was heard throughout the land as all-sports, all-talk radio hit the airwaves. Momentum was almost immediate and today 1310 is the most-listened-to radio station among males aged 24-54. One of the instigators of this blow for “guy talk” dwells among us; Mike Rhyner, known to listeners as “The Gray Wolf,” co-hosts the popular 3-7 p.m. show, “Hardline.” In live broadcasts at neighborhood restaurants like El Arroyo and On the Border, fans stand on chairs just to stare at him and long-time buddy Greg Williams — a phenomena that Rhyner still finds somewhat mystifying. A native Dallasite and loyal dweller of the Casa Linda area, Rhyner took some time to talk to us about the show, and about life with his family in the neighborhood.
“Family” for Rhyner means wife Renée, a photographers’ rep, 11-year-old Jordan, immortalized at The Ticket as “The Squid,” and 18-month-old Digger — a Jack Russell terrier and bona fide escape artist. Our host made us privy to inside information regarding Digger’s daily ritual, which involves extensive barking at the sliding shower door, additional barking at the turning on of the shower nozzle, and culminates in frantic licking of all the water from the tub sides at shower’s end and finally, after a long and ominous pause, a huge burp.
We met with Rhyner at his home and were surprised to see whimsical cats painted all over the mail box out front; it just didn’t seem very, well, “macho.” But Renée explained to us that the mail box belonged to previous owners who also had matching canopied cat beds in one room. We suspect the home’s otherwise fashionable and warm décor was her doing, considering there were no stuffed marlins mounted on the walls or torn baseball jerseys on display. After she and Jordan set off for a swim party with giggling pals and a stack of CDs (Mom vetoed Madonna), Rhyner sat down to chat.
ABOUT LIVING IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD
ADVOCATE: How long have you lived in this area?
RHYNER: Gosh, I’ve lived in east Dallas since I guess, 1982, with just one year away from here. I worked for WBAP from ‘87 to ’88 — I lived in Arlington then. And when we moved back to Dallas, this is where we looked. Prior to that I lived in the La Vista duplexes from ‘82 to ‘86 or ‘87. That was close to Lower Greenville. After returning from Arlington, we lived in Lake Highlands for six years and in November of ‘94, we moved in here.
ADVOCATE: Where did you grow up?
RHYNER: Oak Cliff. I’m a Dallas native. Never lived anywhere else.
ADVOCATE: Why did you choose this are for you and your family to live?
RHYNER: Well, I was living in the La Vista area prior to getting married and when we did get married, we just kinda settled in over here. I just think this is the area of town that’s the coolest. It’s got a real cool vibe about it. Just about every part of it has a real cool vibe as opposed to North Dallas or Oak Cliff or other parts of town. We talked some over the years about looking elsewhere and in fact, we have looked elsewhere, but we’ve never done anything about it. And I don’t expect that we will.
ADVOCATE: Your daughter, Jordan goes to St. Thomas?
ADVOCATE: How did you decide on school’s, public versus private.
RHYNER: When she was in Pre-K, kindergarten and all that, she went to St. James Montessori, and then she went to 1st and 2nd grades at St. Bernard’s. Later, we got her into St. Thomas. One thing we wanted was something that challenged her. We had known some people who had gone to St. Thomas, and they had told us that it was a challenging environment. Really, that was the main criteria. We just wanted to see what she would do and how she would respond if she was pushed academically.
It’s worked out well. They do push them into a pretty difficult curriculum and they have something going on every single night. She’s absolutely loaded with homework, so from that standpoint it’s worked out pretty well. Another thing about St. Thomas. We’ve made some pretty good friends over there. We’ve met a lot of people that we’ll probably be friends with long after our kids have gone their separate ways. We also go to church there. It’s just a real nice scene. It has a nice community feel to it, kind of like East Dallas.
ADVOCATE: Does Jordan object being called the “Squid” on the air?
RHYNER: (laughing) No, not yet. I was talking with some guys at the studio yesterday, and we have this promo spot with her voice. We made it when she was probably six and play it everyday at six o’clock. Basically, it’s her saying “60 more minutes of the Hard Line,” repeatedly. We’re probably not far from that point in time when she comes to me and says, “Daddy, please don’t play that anymore.” Otherwise, she’s pretty cool with all that. She likes being known as “The Squid.” I guess a certain amount residual attention from all this falls her way. She seems to enjoy that, and I think that’s kind of a cool thing.
ADVOCATE: Are Renée and Jordan big sports fans?
RHYNER: As far as playing or watching?
RHYNER: As far as watching, no. Most times when there’s a game being watched in this house, I’m the only one who’s watching it. Now, if it’s something that’s particularly compelling, or has a certain interest from whatever standpoint, then Renée will watch it. We watch Arizona State Football together because she’s an ASU alumnus. Jordan doesn’t really like to watch it very much. She likes to play it but she doesn’t like to watch it. She plays basketball.
ADVOCATE: These days, young girls seems to be more involved in athletic activities. Do you think that’s healthy?
RHYNER: I think it’s great. Absolutely wonderful. In fact, when I was in school, the only girl’s sport they had was tennis. There was no girl’s basketball, no girl’s track, no softball. All of the things you see today. weren’t there.
In fact, I still don’t have any idea what the girls did in gym class. It was one of those things, as far as I know, none of the guys ever asked them about and they never told us about. Yeah, I think it’s a great thing. It’s really, really been neat to watch her as she’s gotten into it. I don’t know if she’ll be particularly good at it. Or, if it’s anything she’ll want to follow through with in high school. But she’s really good at it now, It teaches it her what competition is all about and all that stuff. It’s great.
ADVOCATE: What do you like doing when you’re not working? Any hobbies?
RHYNER: I’m one of those people who’s really lucky because my avocation is my vocation. I would probably be doing this same stuff if I weren’t already doing it every day. I like to read about sports and I like to watch them. The neat thing about being in the business is that you get an audience with those who do it (sports). Therefore, you’re able to find out a lot more about it then you’d be able to normally. I like that. I’m also a big music buff.
ADVOCATE: What kind of music do you like?
RHYNER: All kinds. Anything that’s good and well crafted and worthwhile and seems to have a little bit of direction to it.
ADVOCATE: Any favorites?
RHYNER: (Laughing) Yeah, but I really don’t want to say … . Okay, this is kind of juvenile, but not too long ago we were down at spring training with the Rangers and I picked up this biography of Aerosmith. I kind of thumbed through it and thought it would be pretty good. Well, I took it down there with me and was absolutely enthralled by it. It was them telling their own story. It was them, their wives, their crew, management, people around them. And it was no-holds barred. They really let it all hang out. It got me interested in them and one day, I mentioned on the air that I didn’t have any of their CDs. On that random mention, the next day a couple of Aerosmith CDs showed up in the mail. I started listening to them and I really, really like them.
ABOUT CHOOSING A PROFESSION
ADVOCATE: On the web, there’s a site called “Cool Jobs.” The number one ‘cool job’ was being a radio disc jockey. It made the statement, “Talking on the radio for living sounds like fun, doesn’t it?” Do you agree or disagree?
RHYNER: Well, there’s a little bit of a difference between being a disc jockey and doing what we do because being a disc jockey doesn’t have quite the latitude of what we do. When you’re a disc jockey, it’s about the records, the tunes. As for us, we are the tunes. We are the content of the show. We’re not just whatever it takes to take you into a commercial, out of a commercial or into the next segment. Disc jockeys are bridges whereas we’re more than that. As for the coolness of it … yes, very. It’s very fun.
ADVOCATE: Is this what you wanted to do when you’re growing up?
RHYNER: I was always kind of an underachiever when I was growing up. I didn’t have any clear-cut direction for a long time. I will say this, however, I was always very infatuated with radio. While my friends were watching, “My Mother, the Car,” I was listening to Russ Knight the “Weird Beard” on KLIF.
ADVOCATE: What age were you around that time?
RHYNER: I was probably around Jordan’s age, 11 or 12.
ADVOCATE: Was there anything else you ever considered when you were in high school?
RHYNER: In high school, I was in bands a lot. I wanted to be a rock n’ roll star.
ADVOCATE: What instrument did you play?
RHYNER: Mainly a drummer by trade, but I play a lot of instruments. Some better than others.
ADVOCATE: When did you decide against the rock star career? Or have you?
RHYNER: (laughing) I don’t know if I necessarily have. I don’t know. I did it for a long time. Through high school and long time after that.
ADVOCATE: There’s a story that you once dumped Stevie Ray Vaughan from a band you were in.
RHYNER: Now, I didn’t dump him.
ADVOCATE: Is it true he didn’t fit in with the band because he didn’t know any Beatles songs?
RHYNER: Yep. He didn’t know any Beatles songs. We were a working band at the time. We had gigs coming up and we needed somebody fast. At the time, he must have been about 14 or so. We were starting to play in clubs and stuff. We had a tough enough time getting into clubs without dragging a 14 year-old in there!
ADVOCATE: Did you eve know other notable Oak Cliff musicians like Boz Scaggs or Steve Miller?
RHYNER: No, they were a little older than me.
ADVOCATE: You used to write about music in the Dallas Morning News.
RHYNER: I did.
ADVOCATE: How many years did you do that?
RHYNER: About four or five.
ADVOCATE: Did you like doing that?
RHYNER: Yes, I did. That’s one of those muscles I don’t use very much any more, but it was fun when I did it.
ADVOCATE: What was the first sport that interested you growing up?
RHYNER: That was baseball without a doubt. My parents were baseball fans and they kind of got me into it. Of course, this was back during a different time. It was like in the late ’50s. The NFL was nowhere near what it is today and the NBA was just a little piddlin’ eight-team league. While I was interested in those sports, I was one of the few around here who was. Basketball had plenty of reasons to watch like Wilt Chamberlin, Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, the great Celtics teams and all that — it was nowhere near what baseball was.
Baseball was truly the national game and I don’t know if my interest in that grew out of my parents’. The trouble was, I was never very good at it. I was never very athletic as a kid. I was always one of those kids who would read about it and find out as much as I could about it. That was kind of the path a lot of coaches start out with. I’ve said it before, but if I could do it all over again, I’d go into coaching.
ADVOCATE: What sport would you coach?
RHYNER: I’d probably coach basketball. It’s more fun coaching basketball than any of the others.
ADVOCATE: Why is that?
RHYNER: I don’t know. I’m not sure why I feel that way. I just do. I coached one of Jordan’s basketball teams a few years ago and it was a really fun, rewarding experience. But ask me why I’d coach basketball when it’s not my favorite sport … I just don’t know. It’s one of those games that’s real fun to coach and more fun to teach than baseball or football.
ADVOCATE: You were a baseball fan. Any particular team you liked when you were growing up?
RHYNER: My favorite team when I was growing up was whoever was playing the New York Yankees. Because at that time it was the age of Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Roger Maris. They had absolutely great teams. This is probably what gave rise to the contrarian streak in me that you see today. I just repeatedly rooted against the Yankees. I liked it when they lost. I liked those rare years when they didn’t make the World Series.
ADVOCATE: How did you end up in radio?
RHYNER: In 1979, I had been thinking that it was worth looking into. But I didn’t know how to pull it off. At that time, though, I heard that the Zoo (radio station) needed a news intern because their news director at that time was going to law school. He really couldn’t be bothered with the day-to-day aspect of it. So, I called him and went up there and talked to him about it. Apparently, he wasn’t overwhelmed with the applicants for this position, so I pretty much talked my way into it.
That was my so-called “foot in the door,” and I pretty much latched on there and wound up doing everything. I wanted to learn everything. I was like Digger, a puppy dog with his tongue hanging out begging for attention, asking stupid questions, bothering people, just being a real pain in the ass. That was my entry into it.
ADVOCATE: How many years were you there?
RHYNER: I was there for seven years. I figured I’d be there for about three or four months and wound up staying there for seven years, so I must have been of some use to somebody.
ADVOCATE: Do you have any advice for students or anybody wanting to go into broadcasting?
RHYNER: Just do it the way I did, if you can latch on somewhere if you can and do anything. Become a puppy dog, dig around, be willing to do anything.
ABOUT THE TICKET AND HARDLINE
ADVOCATE: Your wife Renée came up with the station’s name, “The Ticket.” How did that happen?
RHYNER: Well, I remember that very vividly actually. It was my birthday. At that time, the plans for the Ticket were well underway. Our plan was well developed by that point. It was August of ’93, which would have been my 43rd birthday. I knew we were going to have to come up with a handle for it. We were at my birthday dinner at Pappadeaux over on Oak Lawn and we began tossing around ideas. We started thinking along the lines of, “What is indigenous to all sports or all sporting events?” She (Renée ) hit upon, “The Ticket.” When ever you go to a game, you need tickets. I started playing around with it a little bit. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it, the more possibilities I saw with it.
The next day I took it to the other guys and they liked it too. We had dalliances with a few other things, but we always kept coming back to “The Ticket.” We started looking at this or that and one of the guys knew someone who worked at an advertising firm in New York. He came up with a concept that was really off the wall and really wacky. It might have worked real well, you know? We looked pretty hard at that for a while, but we kept coming back to “The Ticket,” and finally decided that if we keep coming back to this thing, then this must be the way for us to go.
ADVOCATE: What did Renée think of all this?
RHYNER: I really think that she thought and hoped that I’d gotten this whole thing out of my system years ago and that I would never get back into it, just set it aside and move into something else, which I probably would have done. I wasn’t really looking to get back in (to radio). Who knows where I would be today and what I’d be doing? The opportunity to get in on this, on the ground floor, start it up from scratch — the chance for all of us to make our mark was too enticing. I couldn’t pass that up. At first, it was kind of like a little “joy ride” for me. Once things got serious, I couldn’t bail out. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
ADVOCATE: Five years has gone by rather quickly and the station has grown in popularity each year. How do you explain its success?
RHYNER: Gosh, there’s been so many things that have gone into it. One thing is having really good people who are really committed to it. I mean, we have a very high level of commitment at the station on just about every level. The best example is our crew on The Hardline. Our producer, Jeff Catlin, our technical director, Expo, and Mark Followill who does the Ticket Ticker for us. Those are jobs where it’s really easy to get whipped because you don’t make a lot of money at it. It’s kind of a behind-the-scenes thing. These guys They’re very committed to us going in there everyday and doing the best show we possibly can. That’s one thing that has a lot to do with it.
I should probably say a thing or two about the “Great Gordo” (Gordon Keith) and how he fits in up at the station. Because when you start looking at what makes The Ticket unique and different from other stations, he’s a big part of that. The things that he does that is a constant source of amazement to me — just constantly blows me away — is the way that he can take what he does and fuse it with what we do and make it all make sense. Now that’s a real talent — not everybody has that.
Another thing is — a lot of luck. There have been a lot of things that have fallen our way for whatever reason. An example of that happened very early on. The Ticket had been on a couple of months and people were just starting to hear that we were out there. We were starting to appear on some people’s radar screens. And Jimmy (Johnson, ex-Cowboys coach) leaves. And that brought a lot of people to the station because we were on that all the time. People were interested. For something like that to happen at that juncture in our development … very lucky.
If you want to go back farther than that … it was really kind of a stroke of luck that at that time I was conceptualizing what I wanted the station to be and the way I thought it could succeed — the way it could differentiate itself from ‘sports talk,’ the way it had been done and the way it was being done in this market up to that point. It just so happens that I was around a couple of guys who I thought could, and indeed it has been proven that they could do that and bring it into effect. That’s luck.
ADVOCATE: In the last five years, this market has seen its share of sports controversies, that don’t occur in many other areas.
RHYNER: Yep. And it’s so funny because one of the things we heard as we were starting out as all-sports station was, ‘That’s fine. They have those things in other markets but it will never work here.” I would say, “Why? Why will it work in all those other places but it won’t work here?” The answer was, “Well, Dallas has WBAP. You can’t compete with them. They have Galloway. They have the Rangers. They have the Mavericks.” At that time they did, but how was that going to impact people listening to our station?
As it turned out, it hasn’t. The national publicity the Cowboys have generated and the fact that they have been a national story — I’m sure we’ve probably felt some sort of effect from that. I don’t know if that’s real huge or helped us on our day-to-day basis around here because even when they’re not a national story, people are interested in them around here. But a lot of times when they need somebody to come on the air in another market to discuss things, they’ll call us for quotes and stuff. I guess we receive a certain tertiary benefit out of that.
ADVOCATE: Last year, The Hardline finally overcame Randy Galloway in the ratings. How did that affect the station?
RHYNER: Oh, it was huge. We moved to afternoon drive in November of ‘96. A month before that, we were covering the Rangers and the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs that year. The first time they broached me about doing the afternoon drive I thought, “We’re team players. We’ll do whatever you guys want.” So, we move into afternoon drive, and the first thing we start thinking is how are we going to compete in the six o’clock hour? There was Galloway, there were the Sport Brothers, who turned out not to be big players in all of this.
I figured that in two years, we would be able to compete with him (Galloway). And it happened much sooner. It happened in the Fall book of ‘97, when we beat him. We were at the Super Bowl in early ‘98 when we found out that had happened. Randy’s been around for years and years. He’s got a newspaper column that he’s always done and he was number one in 24 straight books, which is unbelievable. But I think we’ve established ourselves as definite players. It’ll probably be one of those things where sometimes we beat him and sometimes he beats us. Neither one of us is ever going to take a hide-tanning from the other.
ADVOCATE: What was your exact role in starting The Ticket?
RHYNER: My role was to procure the talent and come up with an on-air concept that would work. I looked around and saw sports talk as it was being done and had been done, and thought we had to come up with a way to differentiate from that. It just happened at that time that I was around some guys who I thought could do that. The trouble was, I had to talk some other guys into letting me bring these unknowns on board.
(Dog jumps on editor of ADVOCATE) Digger, get down. God Almighty.
The way I thought it could be done was to mix in a pretty healthy dose of what has now become known in the vernacular as “guy talk.” And you’ve seen how that worked out. We’ve taken our shots for that.
ADVOCATE: Who came with the title and concept of The Hardline?
RHYNER: I don’t know if there ever was a concept to The Hardline. It just us going in there every day and letting it all hang out and trying to keep it as spontaneous and as much fun as we possibly could. The name of the show, we lifted from a Terrance Trent D’Arby album. He had that album, “The Hard Line According to Terrance Trent D’Arby.” I thought that was kind of cool, so we appropriated that.
ADVOCATE: And you knew Greg Williams prior to starting the show?
RHYNER: Greggo and I met in 1990. At that time, I was doing sports for an audio-tech service, GTE On-Call. He was a low-level minion for WBAP. We met in the course of doing those jobs. We would wind up at many of the same events, i.e. Rangers games, Cowboy games, Mavericks games, what not. And we kind of got to know each other. We got to be friends. Not too long after that, we met Craig Miller. The three of us soon became an unidentified clique at these things, in that you seldom saw one of us without one of the other two close by.
Along that way, particularly at the old ballpark (Arlington Stadium), I began to notice something that was going on. We would get up there and start talking to each other in much the same way that we do on the air these days. None of us were smart enough to realize that we were laying the foundation for what you hear today. We would swap hot sports opinions, tell stories and generally make each other laugh. I began to notice in the process of that, other people in the press box had pronounced reactions one way or another. Some of them thought it was funny and wanted to join in or would sit by, grab a chair, listen and laugh along with us. Others hated us. We were a nuisance to them. But just the fact that we were carrying on in that way and there was such a reaction one way or the other, it planted the seed in my mind that there must be something useful here. I didn’t know what or what I’d be able to do with this, but something useful was happening.
One thing we used to do all the time after Ranger games and what-not, we would go over to Hooters or TGI Fridays — Greggo and Miller and I would — and grab a beer before we headed home, and one of the conversations that used to come up quite a bit was lamenting that there was no sports radio station in Dallas and “Gosh, we don’t know if there ever will be.” We’d talk about what we’d do, but reality would hit us right between the eyes and we’d realize that if it did ever happen, it probably wouldn’t include us.
ADVOCATE: But it did.
RHYNER: Yes and that was how we originally teamed up. We were going to be a three-man show with the three of us, but I also wanted George (Dunham, morning co-host on the Ticket). I didn’t know him that well. He didn’t come out to the ballpark, but I knew he was a pretty good guy that I liked and we could all get along with. I knew he was a talented guy, but I had no idea of the depth and substance of those talents, but that was my initial impression of him. There was something about him that said to me he was the guy I needed to have in on this. We started talking to him and talked him into jumping off this cliff we were about to jump off of. One day, Craig said, “Look man, I’m afraid I’ll get blown away with you and Greggo. You both have very strong personalities. Let me do one with George.” It made more sense. It was a better use of resources and asset allocation, so Greggo and I became a two-man show.
ADVOCATE: Frequently, you like to push people’s buttons, particularly NASCAR fans and Cowboy fans.
RHYNER: Me? Push buttons? Well, NASCAR is just one of those trash elements of the world around us. It’s just a trash sport. To me, the world was just a better place when it was just a bunch of moonshine runners in the hills of Tennessee and North Carolina. When they just stayed off on their own and drank their moonshine, smoked their corn cob pipes, counted each other’s teeth and what not. The world was a better place when NASCAR was limited to that. I have no use for that whole thing.
As for the Cowboys, I used to be a Cowboys’ fan growing up. My first recollection of football was the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants in their now famous 1958 championship game. I became a Baltimore Colts fan after that. The Cowboys and the Dallas Texans came around in 1960, and I was still a Colts fan, but my dad was a Dallas Texans fan. He admired the entrepreneurial spirit of Lamar Hunt who, when not given an NFL franchise, said “Screw it all, I’m going to start my on league.” We would go to Dallas Texans’ AFL (American Football League) games. I’m proud to day I was once a member of the Dallas Texans Huddle Club, but unfortunately, that didn’t last very long. They were here three seasons and then moved away.
Around that time, the Cowboys started getting good, and I got swept up in that. Then, my allegiance to the Baltimore Colts began to dwindle and I became a Cowboy fan and remained one until I started having to deal with them on a day-to-day basis and saw how sorry so many of those guys are. Now, not all of them. But some of those cats are nothing but sorry. There are some great guys in that locker room, but there are also some that are as sorry as they can be and a lot of them are as phony as they can be too. Somewhere in there, I became really irritated with the Cowboy fan who will not accept the truth about anything, does not want to hear the truth. I mean, he just sees what he wants to see and hears what he wants to hear. That’s irritating to me. So, whenever I can stick the needle to the Cowboy fan, I like to do that.
ADVOCATE: Some of your callers might seem like made-up characters. One in particular is the rabid Cowboy fan, J.D.
RHYNER: Yes. J.D. in Grapevine.
ADVOCATE: You get some callers with unique personalities who help make the show.
RHYNER: Yeah. We’ll give those people all the leeway they want. It is surprising that a lot of people think and have thought that J.D. was a character but he’s not. He’s very real.
ADVOCATE: How much do you like to push his buttons?
RHYNER: I love to push his buttons. I love to get him going. Usually though, I’ll back off and let him roll. But prior to his calls, there’s usually something going on that’s flicked his switch. But it’s all in good fun. J.D. and I get along great. When he comes out to stuff, he’s never mad, never angry, he never threatens to beat me up or anything like that.
ADVOCATE: Has anyone you’ve criticized on the air, approached you on unfriendly terms?
RHYNER: It’s happened. I’ve never been in a situation where I thought I was in danger. There have been a few times when I thought things were going down that road, but I was able to defuse that. It does happen. It’s something you have to be wary of. It’s something that you have to be aware that it could happen and you have to have some sort of a plan. I always listen to what they have to say, be nice to them, be civil to them and be prepared to duck out of the way of a right hook.
I guess, it’s kind of customer service when you get down to it. I don’t know if you guys ever have people call up or bought ads, didn’t have any luck with them and are all p—-ed off. I just let them vent. Once they’ve done that, they walk away happy and I walk away relieved that they didn’t beat the hell out of me.
ADVOCATE: You credited your crew. They have been increasingly brought to the forefront of your show. How has this affected things?
RHYNER: That’s just a chemistry thing, I think. We’ve gotten real good at doing that and working those boys in and finding these unusual aspects of their personalities and making them interesting people. This gonna sound like a heck of a thing to say, but you take someone like Expo who, in and of himself, is not a terribly interesting guy. But he does have these personality quirks, these idiosyncrasies that are interesting. What we’ve been able to do is isolate them, bring them out and present them in such a way to make them interesting.
(Dog jumps on editor of ADVOCATE again) Digger, get down. Get down!
I think all of these other stations and other shows are trying to do that as well. I think some of them have had more success than others. Really, though, the template for that was Howard (Stern). I don’t see how anyone who’s gone into talk radio and has been successful at it, can say that they haven’t been influenced by Howard. You may like Howard. You may not like him. But the fact is, he’s blazed the trail for just about everybody. He does the same thing. He works his crew in. That’s really one of the many things we’ve borrowed from him. I don’t like to say we’ve copied from him. I don’t think we have. We don’t hear anymore that we’re nothing but “Howard Stern wannabes.” We used to hear that quite a bit. We don’t anymore. What we’ve done is taken his precepts and applied them to our own scene.
ADVOCATE: You recently came under fire by the press and station management for an ethnic jest.
RHYNER: Sometimes in the course of doing things, of doing the job, you get going and say things you shouldn’t say. That happens to everybody. I regret it. If anybody was offended I apologize. I just hope that those people will give me a chance to get back in their good graces.
But I think it should be pointed out that there have been a lot worse things said on that station. I’ve probably said worse things. I think the reason that got all the attention it was did was basically the word of one guy who was just hell bent on making a big deal out of it. I got calls from others in this business saying, “Hang in there.”
ADVOCATE: Your show has some semi-racy features like “Do-able and Not Do-able,” in which females are asked to name Ticket staffers they find sexually attractive. What does your wife think about things like that?
RHYNER: I don’t think she’s terribly thrilled about that. Like everybody else, she has to remember who we’re talking to. This is a guy thing. While we have numbers of women listeners who are growing at a rapid rate, this is a guy thing. We’re talking to guys. We’re talking about guys. We’re talking about things that guys are into. Like it or not, guys are into that. I think she knows that I may look but that’s as far as it ever gets for me.
(laughing) Let’s just say it’s a source of frequent discussion around here.
ADVOCATE: You’re one of the station’s older personalities and even earned the nickname, “Old Gray Wolf.” Also, the younger staffers seem to enjoy making ‘old’ jokes. What do you think about that?
RHYNER: It is what it is. There’s not anything I can do about that, really. Let me put it this way, I wouldn’t trade places with them (younger staffers).
ADVOCATE: Baseball is your favorite sport to cover. Is there anything about it now that makes it more fun to report.
RHYNER: No, there’s a lot about it that makes it less fun. There are a lot of things going on in baseball that I am really concerned about. Last year, there was the Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire thing. To me, that just served as a disguise for what was really going on in the game. The fact that you didn’t really have a compelling pennant race in any division, except for the American League West, which was a vastly inferior division. You have a real caste system developing in the game for teams that have big payrolls and spend a lot of money as compared to the teams that don’t. That will do nothing but hurt the game.
Then, even after last year, once World Series was done and the off-season hit, what did you hear about? You heard about the gaps between the haves and have-nots. You heard about the $105 million contract the Dodgers gave Kevin Brown. You heard about nothing but money. People are tired of that. They don’t want to hear about that anymore. I don’t want to hear about that anymore. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Nevertheless, it’s there and I tell you what, in the next year or two, you’re gonna see all hell break loose in baseball when the next labor thing hits.
I mean, it’s gonna be bad. In 1993, I told Greggo this and anybody else who would listen. We’re going see the face of baseball as we know it today changed. I kind of thought that might happen after ’94. I thought the owners had a great shot, or that was their opportunity to take a shot at busting up the players’ union and making the pendulum swing their way a little bit, but they caved in. This time, they say they’re not going to cave in and I think the players’ union will be ready for it. You could see the face of the game as we know today changed pretty radically in some form. What form that would be, I don’t know. Maybe a new league. Maybe teams go out of business. Maybe some teams merge, I don’t know. I look toward this as being very significant and very altering to the state of baseball as we know it.
ADVOCATE: What sports personality has given you the biggest thrill to interview?
RHYNER: Johnny Unitas. When I was a kid and a Baltimore Colts fan, well. Johnny Unitas was the guy I latched onto first. Then, as I became older and began to understand the game, I started to understand how great he really was, how effective he was and what a craftsman he was as a quarterback, how he used to operate and how ruthless he was. He was always pretty much my favorite football player.
Very early on, gosh, I’d say it was Year One of the Ticket, we did a weekly remote down at Drew Pearson’s place that was down by the theaters at Park Lane. One day, someone came up to me in a very cavalier way and says, what would you think about having Johnny Unitas coming out there with you this week? I said, “You are kidding, aren’t you?” He said, “No, no. He’s going to be in town.” I said, “If we have a chance to get Johnny Unitas on the show. God Almighty, let’s do it!” He was out here for prostrate cancer, which he had a bout with, and was talking about it. I didn’t even know what to say. I was so giddy and so wiped out — that was an interview Greggo had to handle. I was so thrilled to be up there with Johnny Unitas. It was unbelievable.
ADVOCATE: Who’s your most difficult interview?
RHYNER: I don’t know if there’s been anybody who’s been out-and-out sorry. There have been some guys who have been kind of weird about it. In this market, we don’t have a whole lot of guys that are real problem interviews. Some are somewhat difficult. Charles Haley (ex-Dallas Cowboy) wasn’t always a piece of cake. If you were going to go up there and roll tape on him, you’d better be ready to get rid of the F-bombs. There have been some other guys like that, difficult and irascible.
One guy we were always kind of amused by was during the final days of the old ballpark. The Rangers had Brian Downing. He spent much of his career with the Angels. Later on, they decided they could no longer use him. He wanted to play a little while longer and the Rangers signed him. At that time, he was just a Designated Hitter, but he was good. He had a couple of very productive years here but he was weird. Boy, was he weird. It was almost scary.
He would come into the clubhouse. He would be over there by himself and oftentimes, he’d play an important part of the game, so you’d have to talk to him. You’d go over there and approach him for an interview and he’d throw a fit about it. Dropping F-bombs left and right, raising hell and saying things like, “Why do I have to put up with this s–t from you guys!” Once he calmed down and you got the tape rolling, he was great. You’d ask him a question and he’d give you a great answer. Once the tape stopped, it would start all over. He’d drop F-bombs, cuss at you, then walk away. He was weird but not really difficult.
He always said, “When I retire from this game, I’m going to get on my motorcycle and ride up into the hills and you guys are never going to see me again.” As far as I know, he did that. This was a guy who is the Angels’ all-time leader in just about any offensive category imaginable.
ADVOCATE: What kind letters or email do you receive from listeners?
RHYNER: Most of them are standard. Most of what we get are emails from people saying they appreciate what we do, they like the show and that’s great. You can never hear enough of that. Sometimes, you get something from someone who wants to take issue with something you threw down, but that’s part of it too. We always try answer those. We always try to answer all of that. Even when it’s somebody who just wants to say that they like the show and appreciate what we do, I’ll try to fire back and say, “Hey man, thanks for being by the channel.”
ADVOCATE: Do you have a philosophy about growing older in East Dallas.
RHYNER: I think that’s it’s a place I’ll be able to appreciate doing that.
ADVOCATE: How would you like to be remembered?
RHYNER: I’d like to be remembered as a guy who provided people with the opportunity to have a lot of fun and a guy who was pretty fun himself. A guy who was fun to be around.
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