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Orlando Alzugaray, a Fixture on Miami Sports Radio

Jason Barrett

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As football season steps into overdrive and we all start hemming and hawing about our favorite college and pro teams, I called an old friend who is quite knowledgeable about sports and treated myself to a rainy afternoon sports jam session (or descarga, as we like to say in Spanish) over a delectable stogie at a tucked away cigar shop in Kendall.

The difference between my sports chat and the thousands of others taking place that very drizzly afternoon in South Florida is that I was conversing with none other than WQAM’s sports talk host Orlando “the big O” Alzugaray — and what a treat it was.

The “Big O” as he is affectionately called by listeners, has been a fixture on South Florida’s radio waves for over two decades. Consistently offering a local take on the Dolphins, Heat, Canes, Marlins and Panthers, Alzugaray is as down home Miami as you can get — a homer, a fan, the kind of guy you want to tailgate with.

Part of Alzugaray’s success in connecting with his listeners has been the fact that he feels the same pain we do when our local teams flop. “I love the home teams. I feel the pain the average fan feels, though I try to be analytical and realistic,” Alzugaray explained between puffs of his aromatic cigar. “And no matter how much I try to take a step back and be impartial,” he confided, “sometimes I too can be a ‘blind ass fan’ (a term that he has popularized on his show).”

It is precisely that “blind” passionate flare for local sports that keeps listeners like me tuning in every day.

In a market full of transplants, particularly from the Northeast, Alzugaray is refreshingly native. From his distinct musical rejoiners to references to events of Miami’s past, Alzugaray provides a rarity in South Florida media, a connection to our history — to events on and off sports fields.

“I’ve had a chance to go elsewhere,” he told me, “but Miami is where I want to be. It’s where my wife and I are raising our daughter. It’s home.”

The Big O is sometimes abrasive and challenging. However, it’s always done in the most unpretentious of ways. When you tune in to his show (weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) you’ll never hear him auditioning to get a network gig. He is as non-politically-correct as any radio talent in this market since the late, great Neil Rogers — quite refreshing in today’s cookie cutter, homogenous world of entertainment.

I began my own career in media over 20 years ago covering sports on the same station alongside the Big O and what impressed me about him then is still true about him today: He is tireless when it comes to watching, breaking down and analyzing sports. This guy really does his homework.

An example of this is his yearly trip to the college football Senior Bowl—an all-star game for college seniors, where pro scouts gather to evaluate talent. Alzugaray has been a mainstay at this bowl game in Mobile, Ala., and especially the week of practice leading up to the game for over 15 years — for most of those, he has paid his own way

“Actually, cigars have gone a long way for me in building relationships with lots of NFL scouts and general managers,” Alzugaray confided. “I stock up on stogies when I go up to Mobile and spend the week having after-hour cigars with many decision makers in the NFL. That’s how I’ve built some great relationships over the years. “

That is a testament to his work ethic and his desire to learn more about the game he talks about on the air, and the deep respect he has for the listeners who are intrigued by the inside information that the Big O gathers and shares with them on the air — or while enjoying a good cigar.

Read more at the Miami Herald which is where this article was originally published

Sports Radio News

Jonathan Zaslow No Longer With WQAM

An attempt to reach out to Zaslow for comment went unanswered.

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WQAM midday host Jonathan Zaslow is no longer with WQAM in Miami.

The radio station has removed his show from the website and references to him and his normal 10a-2p ET midday timeslot program have been scrubbed from the station website.

Zaslow tweeted at 5:19p ET confirming the news.

Whether or not this has any effect on his involvement with the Miami Heat broadcasts is unknown as of now.

Zaslow had been with 790 the Ticket since 2004. He was transitioned from Audacy-owned 790 to sister station AM 560 Sports WQAM last October. During his tenure he has worked with a number of established local voices including Joy Taylor, Amber Wilson, Brett Romberg, and Brendan Tobin amongst others.

WQAM has gone thru a number of changes, including a rebranding effort to call the station “560 The Joe”. That ended last year with the station returning to the AM 560 Sports WQAM brand listeners were more familiar with. What they have planned next in Zaslow’s timeslot is unclear but local listeners will likely get some answers next week.

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Sports Radio News

Vanessa Richardson Named Houston Rockets Sideline Reporter, Paul Gallant to Host Solo on ESPN 97.5

Vanessa Richardson will be on the sidelines for the Houston Rockets and Paul Gallant will host solo show on ESPN 97.5.

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Vanessa and Gallant

Changes are taking place in Houston sports media. First, the Houston Rockets will have a new television sideline reporter this season, and she’s a familiar name to Houston sports fans.

Vanessa Richardson, the now former co-host of ESPN 97.5’s Vanessa and Gallant, revealed that she will be on the sidelines for the NBA franchise covering the team for AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

She tweeted the news saying, “Elated to be the new Houston Rockets sideline reporter! I can’t wait to travel the country & share the stories of this dynamic team during 80+ games on AT&T SportsNet Southwest. I’ll continue to fill-in as a host/reporter for Astros broadcasts as well.”

Richardson’s co-host, Paul Gallant, tweeted that with Richardson leaving the show for the Rockets sideline gig, Vanessa and Gallant will become the Paul Gallant Show. The solo show led by Gallant begins Monday September 26th.

“We’re excited to have Paul host his own show”, said Todd Farquharson, General Manager of ESPN 97.5 & 92.5.  “He’s super creative, energetic, and likeable.  He’ll get the audience involved and have fun.”

Paul commented, “You know what I’ve always loved about sports talk radio?  That it’s interactive.  Whether through a phone call, text message, tweet or on Twitch, it’s the best place for sports fans to come together and celebrate…or vent.  And that’s what The Paul Gallant Show is going to be…Houston’s platform to talk about its teams. THE most interactive sports talk show in Houston.”

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Sports Radio News

Ken Carman: Al Michaels ‘Feels Untethered’ On Amazon Prime Video

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

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The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. 92.3 The Fan morning host Ken Carman applauded Al Michaels for his performance during the presentation.

“Al Michaels feels untethered for the first time. He’s not network television anymore and he can say whatever he wants. We interviewed him on the pregame show and I was nervous,” Carman said.

“He’s a legend,” co-host Anthony Lima added.

During the final play of the game, the Steelers fumbled a lateral into the endzone which the Browns recovered to make the final score 29-17. Michaels said “that may be meaningful to some of you. And you know who I mean”, alluding to people who had placed wagers on the game.

Carman, who hosts two-hours of pre-game coverage on the Browns Radio Network, continued to discuss how nervous he was interviewing Michaels. He also discussed how impressive Amazon’s behind-the-scenes production was, pointing out the only football broadcast with more cameras is the Super Bowl. More than 400 people work behind the scenes for Amazon Prime Video.

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

Carman later said people angry that Michaels misspoke by saying the Pro Football Hall of Fame is “down I-71” instead of I-77 were unreasonable, and joked “Al Michaels hasn’t been on a highway in 20 years”.

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