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updated: 7/12/2019 7:05 PM

O’Donnell: Even Dick Clark probably couldn’t save Chicago’s ESPN radio

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  • Not even Dick Clark -- should he be around today -- could likely save ESPN AM-1000, says columnist Jim O'Donnell.

    Not even Dick Clark -- should he be around today -- could likely save ESPN AM-1000, says columnist Jim O'Donnell.
    Associated Press, 2003

  • Former Chicago Bear Tom Waddle is a strong presence at WMVP radio.

    Former Chicago Bear Tom Waddle is a strong presence at WMVP radio.

  • David Kaplan is a bright spot at AM-1000.

    David Kaplan is a bright spot at AM-1000.


IF DICK CLARK WERE still around to host "The Pyramid," the clues might be:

The Hindenburg.

A George Lopez talk show.

Chicago's ESPN AM-1000.

A contestant would snap, "Disasters!"

And it would be game on.

That's because the beatdown continued for the hopeless local sports talk station in Nielsen Audios released this week for the period ending June 19.

Of 30 Chicago stations measured, AM-1000 finished two clicks from the bottom, tied for 27th with commercial-free WCKL-FM (97.9), a contemporary Christian salvation seller.

The ESPN mouse house checked in with an average quarter-hour share of 1.2, down 14 percent from the previous four weeks.

It beat No. 29 WFMT-FM (98.7), the legacied classical station, and No. 30 WMBI-FM (90.1), long the voice of the Moody Bible Institute.

The finish was the worst in years for an outlet renowned for its bad finishes.

Two years ago this month, AM-1000 clocked at No. 25 with a 1.3 all-ages.

Last July, the station remained tied at No. 25 with a mildly hopeful 1.6.

Now, it's strictly serious dregsville.

It's not as if the moth-eaten sleeping bag is completely talent-free.

Tom Waddle remains one of the most credentialed and listenable sports radio guys in the market.

In a dispersal draft, David Kaplan would undoubtedly be a high choice, especially if Jimmy deCastro, Tom Izzo or Lou Malnati's had picks.

Bottom line: Something's got to give.

As one of only two ESPN-owned radio stations in the country, it's a 50,000-watt embarrassment to sports monoliths everywhere.

Traug Keller -- senior vice president of ESPN Audio and an old chum of AM-1000 tsk-tsk master Jim Pastor -- was not available for comment.

So here's a free suggestion sinking forward:

In the next two Nielsen books, go all in for No. 30.

People remember historic flops.

As Casey Stengel told his Amazin' Mets after their 40-120 (.250) inaugural season:

"Without losers, where would winners be?"

THAT "BLOCKBUSTER" TRADE involving Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook is simply more proof that a large foundation of self-delusion and cynical stupidity underpins a whole lot of teams in the NBA.

Houston and Oklahoma City are going nowhere next season. The Rockets are arced out and the Thunder represents a dust bowl organization on permanent horizontal hold.

Watching Westbrook and James Harden attempt to play with one basketball will be an exercise in me-first futility rivaling a vapid sports summit featuring Skip Bayless and Jessica Mendoza.

Biggest loser is Houston owner Tilman Fertitta, a fabulously successful businessman who is surrounded by a layup line of poltroons and apparently doesn't know it.

Odd ripple could impact the Bulls: If John Paxson and his Rodins shift gears to "go fast with pizzazz," Mike D'Antoni could wind up in the mix on West Madison Street.

He circled the head coaching job in 2008.

STREET-BEATIN': Wrigley regulars report that Joe Maddon is cutting back on his open chat time with media. Bleachered money says that he will be allowed to summon his own bellhop at season's end (and quite likely ride share to O'Hare with Theo Epstein, who will hire David Ross as his next manager somewhere). … The Cubs also opened the fan-interactive "Marquee Sports Network Studio Experience" outside Wrigley Field on Gallagher Way Friday morning. Tourists can sit behind an anchor desk and suddenly realize that they, too, could be Luke Stuckmeyer . … That maelstrom over scoreboard errors at Cleveland's Progressive Field during the MLB All-Star Game overlooked a long-standing civic tradition: This is a city that was named for the Connecticut surveyor Moses Cleaveland. (And he never called for a second edit or an apology.) … Including podcasts, NBC Sports is boasting about "410 hours" of coverage of the British Open beginning later this week (Golf Channel, Thursday and Friday; NBC-5 Saturday and Sunday). That's more than four times as long as it will take to play the tournament at Northern Ireland's Royal Portrush. (A win by homebred Rory McIlroy would be the happiest Orange State event since Van Morrison picked up a guitar.). … Fighting totals from the wagering desert: New head coach Thomas Hammock and Northern Illinois have a higher over/under wins number for the upcoming college football campaign (7) than Northwestern (6½). Kookie karma if both wind up playing in an Elk Grove-sponsored bowl game -- in Elk Grove. … Micro-niched sports doinker Pat Tomasulo may have lost his "Man of the People" on WGN-Channel 9. But he did sell out one of two shows at the struggling Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in downtown Arlington Heights and still has Steve Cochran on speed dial. … Props continue to pour in to Mike Driskell, Jennifer Czajka, Jon Freier and Tracy Recklaus of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library for their handling of "The Life and Times of Chet Coppock." Even Jeff Jacobs -- founding president and COO of Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Entertainment Group -- took note. … And corner-kicking Phil Mushnick, bringing a New York state of mind to the afterglow of the American women's World Cup championship: "This U.S. team did nothing to advance 'the gender,' did not succeed 'against all odds' and, because many Americans found it impossible to embrace Team USA, did little to 'lift the nation.' " Harrumph.

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at