WEEI confirmed on Thursday what many had seen coming for a while. Jerry Thornton, formerly of BarstoolSports.com, has been added as the “permanent” third person on the Dale & Holley afternoon show on WEEI.
The “third person in” has been a format the station has adopted in recent years. The Mut & Merloni midday show transformed into the MFB (or is it MBF? FMB?) with hosts Lou Merloni, Christian Fauria, and Tim Benz. The Dennis & Callahan morning show long ago added Kirk Minihane. The Dale & Holley afternoon show has had a revolving rotation of third wheels, including Thornton.
This new format is not new at all. In fact, the long-running success of Dale & Holley’s predecessor in afternoon drive on WEEI, “The Big Show,” was having a roundtable discussion with Glenn Ordway as the ringmaster. Ordway’s show faltered when Michael Holley was added and the show was reduced to just Ordway and Holley. Now WEEI is going back to more of the roundtable format again.
WEEI is hoping Thornton can do for the afternoon show what Minihane has done for the morning show. While Minihane had a hard time fitting in and being accepted by his co-hosts, John Dennis and Gerry Callahan, at first, the ratings for the once-stagnant show have surged. Love him or hate him, it’s hard not to point at Minihane as the impetus for the spike in the ratings.
It’s impossible not to notice the growing influence Minihane has at the station. The station has struggled to attract a younger listening audience. Not coincidentally, the station has struggled to establish any new talent. Minihane prides himself on knowing, or thinking he does, what people want to listen to. His philosophy is that people don’t want to listen to just sports talk. They want to be entertained. He has no problem starting feuds — many of which are, obviously, contrived — with other hosts on the station. He likes stirring the pot. He will take contrarian positions on popular subjects– not because he believes what he says, but to generate angst among listeners (known online as “trolling”).
Minihane is unabashed in his opinions. Sometimes that has gotten him into trouble like the time he called Erin Andrews a bad word and hoped she would die. The station, reluctantly, suspended him after the story garnered national attention. Any publicity is good publicity, right?
Just this past week, Minihane stormed out of the studio while on-air after getting infuriated by a caller who called him out on his binge-drinking days. This is what he does. He is bombastic and people tune in to see if he will, figuratively speaking, throw himself off a building.
It is no surprise that Minihane has pushed for Thornton to get a full-time gig at the station. Thornton is of the same ilk. Like Minihane, his sports knowledge is limited, but he is up-to-date on pop culture and has amusing takes on life. In fact, Thornton has made the rounds as a part-time standup comic. As noted, Thornton has also written for Barstool Sports. If you’ve never read Barstool, it is a very loosely based, off-color look at sports. On Twitter, their bio advertises themselves as being “by the common man, for the common man.” They use colorful language and are, very often, demeaning to woman. If that’s your cup of tea, have at it.
So this is where Jerry Thornton is coming from. If you follow local sports, you’ve certainly either seen him on CSNNE or heard him on either WEEI, The Sports Hub, or even Ordway’s online reincarnation, “The Big Show Unfiltered.” He follows the trend of trying to add comic relief to sports radio. Ordway has comic Graig Murphy (you may remember him as the spot-on Terry Francona impersonation on “The Whiner Line”) as a regular host. For a short time, Murphy was a “flash boy” on WEEI’s morning show. Christian Fauria, despite being a former football player, seems to fashion himself as a comedian (although he is rarely funny) on WEEI’s midday show. Mikey Adams is just a flat-out clown at night.
It’s difficult to project how Thornton will be as a regular. His Seinfeld-act gets old quick. Once the novelty wears off, there has to be some foundation of sports knowledge. Thornton freely admits, half-jokingly, that he has “no journalism background, no formal training and no discernible talent.” That must make all those Syracuse grads who spent $200,000 on their education who would kill for a job at WEEI feel good.
This is the guy they are thrusting into the hallowed afternoon drive time. It would have made more sense to put Minihane with Dale and Holley. Minihane, actually, got his feet wet on WEEI working weekends with Dale Arnold when Arnold was in limbo with the station. They have a good chemistry. Thornton has worked with Dennis and Callahan before and they’ve clicked. It would make sense to make the new guy wake up at 4 a.m everyday to go to work.
WEEI is trying to right the ship after a few stormy years chasing The Sports Hub. Michael Felger still rules the afternoons and it seems WEEI is trying to find that bombastic contrarian who can play his foil. Sports knowledge be damned– be funny and have a strong take.
Maybe WEEI will hire Lenny Clarke next.