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Should There Be More Soccer Talk on Local Sports Radio?

Peter Welpton, a microphone, and no third nipple.
Peter Welpton, a microphone, and no third nipple.

Peter Welpton wasn’t sure what to do next. A two-decade-plus veteran of radio, Welpton had made a career change three years ago when he took a job in digital development the Dallas Morning News to help the paper improve its technology. But earlier this year he became a victim of his own success: To help pay for for some of the technology strategy and partnerships Welpton had pitched, he and others in his department were let go.

Oh, well. That’s business. And instead of wallowing in bitterness, Welpton asked himself, “What do I love?” He came up with two answers: soccer and The Ticket (Sports radio 1310AM/96.7FM). So he put together a proposal and took it to Ticket management: Let me put together a soccer show. The Ticket’s response: “HAHAHAHAHA who let you in, no, seriously, get out.” He revised his pitch: How about a World Cup show? The response: “Hey, Budweiser might sponsor that.”

Thus was born Bud Light’s World Cup Kick Around, which has run weekday evenings at 7 p.m. (and other times) during the World Cup. For soccer fans like me, it was wonderful to hear informative, insightful soccer talk. Now that the show is about to air for the last time (it will bracket Sunday’s 2 p.m. World Cup final, from 11-1 and 4-6), here’s a quick Q&A with Welpton — which is just a cover so I can make one last pitch to sports radio suits that if you want the next generation of sports fans, you need more soccer talk.

How did you convince The Ticket to let someone else in the fold, especially to talk about soccer? Aren’t they opposed to both ideas on principle?

I had developed a working relationship with the operations manager, Jeff Catlin, while I was heading up the development of the SportDayTALK app for the Dallas Morning News and The Ticket. The idea of doing a soccer radio show had always been something I wanted to do, but realized it really could only be impactful if it was on The Ticket. Jeff liked my offer to do something related specifically to the World Cup, liked the outline of my idea and deserves full credit for actually expanding on it to the nightly show we ended up doing.  I asked Andy Swift (executive director of the Dr Pepper Dallas Cup and a living World Cup encyclopedia) to co-host, and we also had a rotating cast of established Ticket personalities. That last piece proved to be really important.

What was the reception like from the staff and listeners?

My biggest concern going into this was hosting a show that ended up sounding like a third nipple on the station. As much as I could have worked on trying to create something that sounded like it belonged on the station, the reality is the biggest reason this worked is the Ticket staff bought into it, talked about it, approved of it and very much made Andy and I welcome. I mean, come on, being invited to be a part of “Ticket Theater” for the US/Belgium game and Mike Rhyner accidentally nicknaming us the “Landmine Kick Around” is Line Four Guy next-level stuff. [Note: This is very inside-baseball stuff. It’s okay to skip past the references you don’t get.] As for the listeners, my other concern was pissing off the P1s [passionate fans of the station].  To their credit, I got incredibly kind and complimentary messages each day, and every one is like a kick-ass Christmas present. The idea that I got to run around in the Ticket playground with my soccer ball as the staff and listenership joined in is something pretty danged awesome.

 Is there an appetite for soccer talk in DFW beyond the World Cup? The ratings weren’t that great, compared to other U.S. cities.

I do think there is an audience for soccer in Dallas. It’s an area that is far more savvy about the sport than we give ourselves credit. It’s  home to arguably the most competitive youth soccer scene in the country (Classic League), it has hosted World Cup games at the Cotton Bowl, it has the nation’s largest men’s amateur league (NTPSA), it’s home to one of the world’s most prestigious youth tournaments (Dallas Cup), and it has an MLS founding team in FC Dallas. Really, that’s quite a heritage. Dallas is very much football country, but it has amazingly deep and serious roots in soccer.

What happens after Sunday?

Good question. I went into this appreciating the idea that I was able to focus on just talking about the World Cup and not worrying about making it survive past that six-week window. But the reaction really caught me off guard. Andy and I have talked a lot about trying to keep the fire burning, and we’re tossing around ideas. One of the things I’d like to figure out is how to centralize the Dallas soccer community in the form of this show. The number of people in Dallas that love the sport is pretty huge, there just isn’t the right outlet for all the different factions to congregate. Maybe a version of this could be it. But even if Sunday is the last show till 2018, I’d leave a rather content fellow.

You are a Manchester United fan. Are you also a fan of the Miami Heat, the New York Yankees, and Satan?

Yeah, I am the cliché American Manchester United fan. My admiration for that club dates back to a long time ago when European soccer was rather limited in its availability in Dallas and ManU was shown more than any other team. Oh, and they won a lot. Being born and raised a Cowboy fan, I was easily assimilated into the Red Devil fan base. There was a time I was positive Eric Cantona moonlighted as Batman. To be fair, I’m also married to FC Dallas and the US Men’s National Team, so I understand angst and disappointment, kinda like anyone who’d voluntarily root for Tottenham. [Note: words hurt.]

22 comments on “Should There Be More Soccer Talk on Local Sports Radio?

  1. It’s been really amazing to turn on the Little Ticket and hear intelligent soccer talk during the WC. Hope they can figure out a way to make a Saturday or Sunday show work during the club season. YNWA

  2. The Ticket should absolutely take this on. Also, one important soccer heritage fact that Peter didn’t mention is that America’s greatest proponent of soccer was Lamar Hunt. Anyone born and raised in America who loves the sport owes him a debt of gratitude for his investment into developing our country’s numerous professional leagues through the years.

  3. To be fair, Peter DID mention this. It was trimmed because I can’t remember why. But he gave LH his props.

  4. Presumably, with those fancy Arbitron people meters, the Ticket now knows exactly how interested people are in soccer (at least during World Cup play). The experiment has been run. I wonder if management shared the resulting data with Peter.

  5. 7pm on weeknights is not an apples-to-apples test. Pre- and post-EPL games on Saturdays and Sundays is a test.

  6. I think that continuing in the weekly post-Shake Joint slot (Sundays 11-1) would be perfect. They could recap most of the EPL and MLS action from the weekend, some of which would have just wrapped up. DTID!

  7. The dude knows his stuff. I was amazed by his knowledge of the sport and the history.

  8. Since sponsorship is everything, and Rich Phillips now works for Texas Motor Speedway, I just assumed that TMS pays for that show.
    If Peter can convince someone to pony up and sponsor, he’ll be back.

  9. I’d tune in every Sunday 11-1 to hear soccer coverage. USA, European, MLS can all get combined into a show. Let’s make it happen.

  10. The only drawback is that the 11-1 window could potentially be truncated or passed over during NFL season for Cowboys (Noon Pre-Game) coverage. Maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves, but it has been a dream to have WC coverage on the ticket.

  11. I think technology gives you a way to ‘split the baby’ on this. What you do is a ‘mini-show’ plus a professional-quality podcast.

    The mini show could be anywhere from 5-15 minutes, some time when people are awake but it doesn’t have to be drive time. You hit a couple of major topics quickly, and maybe take one call–and you make sure to pitch the podcast.

    Right after the mini show is over, you’re still taking calls and responding to them, and the best of it makes the podcast. You can also optionally air the podcast sometime in the middle of the night when you’ve got spare airtime.

  12. Eric – great article and Peter/Andy – “you gained a listener” during landmine WC kick around (and twitter follower). and now you just lost a listener if you don’t keep this up post WC.

    Been an Arsenal fan since ’94 I’d listen to landmine WC kick around if it was a Sat/Sun show during EPL – keep working on me to jump into MLS fold – still can’t bring myself to jump in feet first their.

    baby arm & thanks for inviting me to come here for my futbol sports talk here

  13. I would consider each and every Yahoo Sports Radio show the Ticket airs “spare airtime”.

  14. excellent idea…perfect time of day. Could be used for FCD pre-game talk before evening games at the stadium during the spring and summers. Would be really fun. In the winter the need to recap the days EPL and Euro games would be very ‘useful’ and I would participate. Even if the FCD club helps out financially this needs to be done.

    So many directions you can go with this. On-site coverage of the Dallas Cup would be great, too not to mention the many international exhibition matches that come to Dallas each and every year. More MLS talk (not just FCD) would help the locals understand the rivalries that have been created thus far in the history of the league. A weekly radio show would be an awesome way to engage the pent up spectator base here in Dallas. There really is no reason that Toyota Stadium should not be the most admired home field advantage in the MLS. Great venue when full. Sign me up for soccer talk on The Ticket!

  15. A soccer related show would be great, but we’ve been crusading for simply regular and respectful soccer talk throughout the day for several years. For all the reasons Peter mentioned, it’s maddening that soccer has seemed like a pariah on the Ticket for so long. We would be happy for soccer news and scores to just be MENTIONED with more regularity on the station. This requires no special sponsors and no new hosts or producers–just the current personalities that like and follow soccer to mention it and include it in quick hits and conversations when the stories warrant. World Cup Kickaround has proven that the dream of soccer talk is possible. Let’s hope the conversation continues!