We all win in Lions return to 97.1. Valenti keeps his job

Before telling you why the Detroit Lions returning to 97.1 FM is good for everybody involved let me address the elephant in the room. Did the team leave 97.1 The Ticket five years ago for WJR 760 AM because it demanded the firing of my former broadcast partner Mike Valenti?

No one told me that, but I believe the team left in part because of Valenti. He has said as much. He also said the team prevented him from doing an NFL show because it didn’t like his views.

The Lions even got mad at him for wearing a black and gold tie and pocket square on a television segment because it looked too much like the New Orleans Saints colors, a team the Lions just played.

The Lions and Mike were oil and water.

Here is why I believe the Lions left the station in part because of Valenti.

I was asked two questions by the shirts and ties that run the station five years ago before the team left.

  1. All on air personalities were asked if they’d be upset if the Lions left the station? I said I would not mind if they left. It would not bother me one bit. From talking to the other folks at the station the majority held my opinion.
  2. Question two. Would the station be better off with the Lions or Valenti? I did not hesitate and I did not stutter. I believed we were better off with Valenti than the Lions. I still believe that. That’s when I began to believe Mike was going to lose his job. How often does a company stand by its employee over a client that brings revenue and profile? It’s not often.

“I can categorically deny that we requested, or there were any conversations, around Mike Valenti’s dismissal,” former Lions vice president of marketing Elizabeth Parkinson told The Detroit News. “It’s just not something that was discussed, nor was his agent involved in any of the negotiations. I truly don’t know where that came from.”

Blame me.

I remember prepping for shows thinking: “Damn. Mike is going to be fire because of the stupid Lions.”

However, the station stood by Mike and that was the right move. The Lions left the station and that was a bad move for the Lions, their fans and the station. WJR did offer $1 million more. But that is not an issue.

If the Lions wanted to remain with the station they could have asked for a rebid. It’s what the Tigers did when 105.1 outbid 97.1 for their rights.

Of the four professional sports teams in Detroit the Lions were the most thin-skinned. They monitored our show constantly and we’d have firm discussions during breaks about content. I of course was told that they were not upset with us ripping the team. They simply wanted to correct misinformation.

OK. And who wants to buy the Brooklyn bridge? I can give you a good deal.

The team would not allow players or coaches on our show. The only player that was on constantly was Mike’s pal T.J. Lang. I was told that I could have any Lions player on I wanted when Mike was on vacation. Somehow I remained Switzerland during these intense times.

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh appeared on our show once a week during a paid segment. I have no idea how that happened. And that segment ended in a train wreck when Suh didn’t like our questions and hung up.

It will be interesting to see if any Lions player or coaches appear on a show with Valenti now that the team is back.

In fairness to the Lions, they were not the only team that was reluctant to give us guests. We’d request Tigers players. But they were always tied up in meetings and then we’d hear them on the airwaves at 6:10 p.m., moments after our show ended. Or sometimes it was 1:45 pm right before our show began.

The king of avoiding our show was former Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski. He hated our show. One of our producers would frantically try to book Dombrowski for our show after the Tigers made a major transaction. He was always tied up. But magically I’d hear Dave chatting it up on the show after ours as I drove home for the evening.

And he’d appear on the morning show or midday show to discuss things.

I don’t blame Mike for that. That was my bad because a former Tiger gave me inside the clubhouse information on Pudge Rodriguez and the distain of some players for the special treatment he received from the team.

I heard Mike give a speech on the Valenti and Rico Show Friday about how he’d rather walk than alter his views about the Lions. As long as the team is bad, he will light up his blow torch. If the team ever becomes good then he will dole out positive comments.

The Lions finally corrected a bad move and that is good news for everybody. Now you can actually listen to Lions broadcasts without static. You don’t have to listen to a post game show that constantly apologizes for the Lions bad performances. You are more likely to hear what real fans think about the team. You are more likely to get real radio, not what the Lions want you to hear.

It’s good for the station because it can brag that it is the only station in America that broadcast four professional sports teams. It’s good for the Lions because more people will listen to their games.

It’s a win, win.

And Mike got to keep his job.

Hopefully, Tony Ortiz is patrolling the sidelines again.

I was asked two

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Published by terryfoster8

I am a 58 year old retired sports journalist, husband and father of two living outside of Detroit in search of his next big adventure in life.

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