Every Monday through Friday, 52 weeks a year, fans in "38 states and half of Canada" switch on their radios at 7 p.m. and listen to a man rant about sports on the air.
The man is Pete Franklin, a call-in show host on Cleveland station WWWE. Originally from East Longmeadow, Mass., the self-proclaimed "individual" can arguably be called the most popular non-network sportscaster in the country.
One reason is the sheer power of his medium. WWWE, one of a handful of 50,000 watt-clear channel radio stations in the U.S., can be heard every night over half the continent, and listeners as far away as Iceland and Argentina have reported reception. "I have fan clubs in Atlanta, Toronto, all over," Franklin comments. "I'm not what you'd call a local figure."
The main reason for his popularity, however, is the power of the man. Sports phone-in hosts are a notoriously testy bunch, but Franklin is grumpier and more unpredictable than most. He's hung up on callers who root for teams he dislikes, banned others from the air, and played irritating ditties like the Cleveland Crusader fight song a half-dozen times a night.
While Franklin's personality makes calling in a precarious business, it also provides the listener with entertainment. And that's what Franklin calls his chief goal.
"I'm in show business," the 20-year veteran of sports talk said by phone yesterday. "I'm there to entertain and amuse you. None of the callers really bother me--I get a kick out of all of them. If they bothered me, I wouldn't do it."
You may have a hard time convincing the University of Michigan football fan who called several Novembers ago, but then Franklin is a proud man who wears his loyalties on his sleeve.
They read as follows: Cleveland Indians baseball, Ohio State football, the Cleveland Browns, Cavaliers, the old Crusaders and Barons, and so on until he reaches his pet hates, the University of Michigan football team and the New York Yankees.
The Wolverine-lover called merely to inquire about the well-being of the Buckeye gridders following an important contest between the two Big 10 rivals--a contest which Michigan had won handily.
Franklin listened patiently for about four seconds and then played one of his more obnoxious tapes--a bronx-cheer rendition of the Michigan fight song--into the receiver and over the air.
"I tend to be somewhat of an individual, I guess that's how you'd put it," he admits. "It's taken awhile for people to get used to me, and some haven't yet."
Obviously, a great many have, for Franklin's show--in its 16th year--is one of the highest rated in the country. "We've had a good time, but we also get commercial acceptance...We're well respected."
Unlike Cleveland, Pete Franklin gets respect. And when he talks--every weeknight at 7 p.m.--people all over the continent, in 38 states and half of Canada, listen.